NEW YORK — Not quite an hour had passed since the conclusion of the Washington Nationals’ fifth loss in seven games, and right fielder Jayson Werth sat near his locker staring at the carpet in front of his bare feet.
He had no answers — no substantive answers, anyway. Not about his sharp grounder to third in the ninth inning, the play in which it appeared to everyone in the Washington dugout that Werth either had beaten the throw to first or should have been called safe because the throw pulled the first baseman off the bag.
Not about the Nationals’ massive hitting woes, which continued Thursday with a 1-0 loss to the New York Mets.
Not about whether Washington’s struggles on this day had more to do with their own slump or the efforts of a 25-year-old opposing pitcher making his 10th career start.
“Hard to say, really,” said Werth, who went 0 for 3 with a walk. “It’s not an easy game. I don’t really have too many thoughts on much right now.”
The struggle to articulate what ails the Nationals’ offense — which has not scored in its past 19 innings of play — turned into an epidemic Thursday in the visiting clubhouse at Citi Field. The players said they’re trying their best. The manager said he hasn’t lost faith in his team’s ability to turn its offensive fortunes around.
Hitting coach Rick Eckstein said, well, nothing. The team did not make him available for comment after Washington suffered its seventh shutout loss of the season and its fourth in the past 10 games. As a team, the Nationals are batting .223 with a .295 on-base percentage, statistics that place them at the bottom of the National League in both categories.
When asked how the team will try to maintain a positive attitude while it works through its current offensive rut, Werth suggested that a reporter come in and speak to the players prior to Friday’s interleague opener at Baltimore.
“Right now our offense [stinks],” said veteran Matt Stairs, who flew out to right field while pinch-hitting in the top of the eighth.
The word for Washington starter Livan Hernandez’s performance Thursday, according to catcher Ivan Rodriguez, was “tremendous.” And indeed, Hernandez scattered seven hits, one earned run and two walks across seven innings of work.
But Hernandez took the loss — his sixth of the season — because the offense he provided was not enough to overcome the outing turned in by his counterpart, Dillon Gee.
Gee took a no-hitter deep into the sixth inning before Hernandez struck a two-out single into center field. The Nationals’ eight position players combined to put the ball safely in play once against Gee, who allowed two hits and three walks in seven and two-thirds innings.
Washington attempted to mount a comeback in the ninth, but its one-run deficit proved too steep in a two-game series in which it was shut out. After Laynce Nix smacked a one-out double down the left field line, Werth drilled a grounder to third base. Mets third baseman Justin Turner collected the ball and fired to first, where first baseman Daniel Murphy had to make a significant stretch to make the snag.
Did Murphy’s foot drag off the bag? Did Werth beat out the throw regardless? Nationals Manager Jim Riggleman wanted answers and so he stalked out to speak with first base umpire Phil Cuzzi.
“I didn’t really get an explanation,” Riggleman said. Cuzzi “just said [Werth] was out. I was doing most of the talking.”
Riggleman offered some thoughts to home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez, as well as crew chief Bill Miller, before returning to the Washington dugout unsatisfied. Adam LaRoche grounded out to second to end the game.
“What I see? My man was safe,” Hernandez said. Werth “beat him two times. He was safe with the guy out of the bag, and he was safe because he beat the throw. I think it was a big mistake by the umpire. It’s not about the foot is off the bag. He was safe because he beat the throw to first. He was safe two times.”
After the game, the umpiring crew, led by Miller, filed a complaint over a verbal altercation about the call with Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo, according to the New York Daily News. Major League Baseball is investigating the matter, the Daily News reported. A Nationals spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“The pitchers have been pitching good; Livo pitched good again today,” Werth said. “It’d be nice to get him some runs. It’d be nice to get a lot of these guys some runs, but it’s just not happening.
“We’ve got to keep working hard and keep playing the game and stay positive. We’ve got another ballgame tomorrow. We’ve got a game after that. We’ve got 140-some more or something like that, so a lot of season left. You know, you really can’t put too much weight in games like these.”