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Cardinals Pour It On Before Rain

Four Runs in the First Enough to Topple Nats: Cardinals 6, Nationals 1

From left, Albert Pujols, Ryan Ludwick and Yadier Molina get a warm welcome from the dugout after Molina's three-run homer.
From left, Albert Pujols, Ryan Ludwick and Yadier Molina get a warm welcome from the dugout after Molina's three-run homer. (By Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 4, 2008; Page E01

The final slice of bad news came after midnight last night, the cherry atop a bizarro sundae. The Washington Nationals already had sent their franchise player to the disabled list, reinforced their offensive ineptitude and slogged through two rain delays in a 6-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.

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Now, they learned Odalis Pérez, who lasted only three innings and 49 pitches, will miss his next scheduled start Sunday with what Manager Manny Acta termed left shoulder tendinitis. Pérez called it tightness, "like something burning," he said.

On the same day the Nationals placed third baseman Ryan Zimmerman on the disabled list, they learned their Opening Day starter also will miss time. Six players, a full two-thirds of the Nationals' first lineup of the season, is either on the disabled list or otherwise unable to play.

"You know, things happen in the game, and right now this team is not having a good time," Pérez said. "Everyone goes through that stretch. We happened to go through that early in the year."

Pérez said he first felt pain in his shoulder three starts ago, a pain similar to an injury that forced him to miss a start or two in a prior season. He felt the pain again in the bullpen last night, worsened by damp weather. No MRI exam is scheduled at the time, and Pérez plans to make the start after the one he will miss, depending on what doctors find in treatment this week.

"I don't think this will be like a big, big issue," Pérez said. "I've been battling and I've been battling. But today, I couldn't hold it no more. I told my manager my shoulder is tight and I couldn't keep pitching.

"I'm not going to quit. I have to go out and pitch. I'm not going to let my team down. I'm not going to go on the DL, because I'm not that kind of pitcher. There's a time when you cannot hold it no more. Today was one of those days."

"One of those days" could aptly describe the Nationals' performance as well. No more than 5,000 of the original 26,875 fans remained by the end, which is perhaps how the Nationals preferred it: The fewer people around to summarize this homestand opener, the better. The Nationals, already proven masters at losing baseball games by not hitting, had spent the evening reaffirming that proficiency and adding another -- the ability to lose a baseball game before they even had the opportunity to hit.

Washington, at least, scored their first run after 22 scoreless innings, avoiding their ninth shutout of the season. They managed six hits last night -- four against starter Kyle Lohse -- including the double by Jesús Flores that preceded an RBI groundout to second base by Ryan Langerhans.

The good news: The Nationals were not shut out for the third straight game. The bad news: They have scored one run in 27 innings -- and that run had zero impact on the final outcome.

"We got to do better," third baseman Aaron Boone said.

In what ways?

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