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Joan Adon’s control problems continue in Nationals’ loss to Mets

Joan Adon struggled in Thursday's outing, walking five batters in just 3 2/3 innings. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Washington Nationals Manager Dave Martinez has diagnosed Joan Adon’s issues and made them clear to the rookie starter. It’s one rough inning, Martinez has repeated. The 23-year-old right-hander loses his rhythm if things start getting out of hand and fails to focus on throwing strikes.

That inning presented itself immediately in a 4-1 loss to the New York Mets on Thursday afternoon at Nationals Park. Adon walked leadoff hitter Brandon Nimmo. After getting Starling Marte on a lineout, he gave a free pass to Francisco Lindor. A two-out walk to Jeff McNeil loaded the bases.

All three walks came on full counts. Adon was frustrated but still only one hitter from escaping the inning. He then yielded a single to Mark Canha, the only hit he allowed in the frame, scoring two. He got out without further damage, but his pitch count stood at 37.

“Ever since I started warming up, I felt like I just couldn’t find the zone today for some reason,” Adon said through an interpreter. “It’s hard to explain. I just couldn’t find the zone.”

Nationals power through their early mistakes in win over Mets

Adon’s erratic first proved to be all the Mets (22-11) needed on a day the Nationals managed just four hits while dropping their second series to the Mets. Washington (11-22) has yet to win a series at home, losing four and splitting one. The Nationals haven’t won a home series since August.

“I could tell that he got a little frustrated. Even after the first inning, we calmed him down a bit in the dugout between innings,” Martinez said. “When you’re young like that, he thinks he’s letting the team down, and I had to tell him that you’re not and you just got to go out there and focus on throwing strikes.”

Adon said he felt “weird” most of the game, trying to find his mechanics on the fly. Martinez noticed Adon was flying open on his delivery and throwing balls to his arm side while also yanking his curveball.

The corrections did not yield much improvement. Adon walked two more in the second and, after a clean third, gave up two hits in the fourth, including an RBI single to Tomás Nido that put the Mets ahead 3-0 and signaled the end of Adon’s afternoon. His line included just 3⅔ innings and 84 pitches, 44 for strikes.

Juan Soto is seeing fewer strikes, but he’s chasing more pitches

Adon has shown the ability to work through jams. In his last outing against the Angels, for instance, he held his own against the heart of the Los Angeles order. But Thursday he fell victim to many of the issues that have plagued him this season. Through seven starts, he has a 7.03 ERA and a 1.72 walks and hits per inning pitched.

“He’s got great stuff, he really does, so we got to continue to work with him,” Martinez said. “I really believe he’s going to win a lot of games here soon. If we get him through that first inning, that second inning where he implodes a little bit and he settles down, he’s pretty good. But we got to get him out of those situations.”

How has the Nationals’ offense fared at home? Not well. Taijuan Walker allowed just three hits over seven innings. Juan Soto’s solo home run in the ninth accounted for the Nationals’ only run. The Nationals have scored 42 runs across their 17 home games, an average of less than 2.5. On the road, they averaging close to six runs (94 runs in 16 games).

What happened in the fourth inning on the base paths? Soto, who doubled to open the inning, ran to third on a ball in front of him by Josh Bell to Mets third baseman Luis Guillorme. Soto got caught in a rundown and was eventually tagged out by Walker.

Walker tried to throw out Bell, who was streaking for second, and when his throw missed wide and rolled into right field, Bell took off for third without seeing that Marte had backed up the throw in right field. Marte’s throw easily beat Bell, who was tagged out as Soto looked on from the turf and the Mets celebrated.

“When we make errors like that, it hurts the whole team,” Soto said. “It feels really bad, and for me, I try to learn from it and try to (not) be too aggressive in those situations.”

What’s the update on Alcides Escobar’s finger? Escobar had his left index finger drained again after getting an infection under the nail. Dee Strange-Gordon filled in at shortstop for Escobar for the third straight game.

Martinez said Escobar was feeling better and had more mobility in his finger and could be back in the lineup for Friday’s game against the Houston Astros.

How is Aaron Sanchez feeling after Wednesday night? Martinez said Sanchez was a bit sore after getting hit on the bottom of his glove hand by a 113-mph comebacker from Pete Alonso. X-rays came back negative.