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Anemic Offense Abandons Solid Strasburg As Nats Get Swept


When does Rizzo point the Zim-Signal into the sky to summon Ryan Zimmerman?

Stephen Strasburg was once again solid, but the offense was once again pathetic as Jaime Garciahad his way with the lineup, allowing just four hits in 5.2 IP, and the Nats (10-11) suffered their sixth straight loss at home, 4-2 to the Cardinals. The team is now under .500 for the first time since 2011.

Apr 24, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg (37) throws during the second inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Strasburg (L, 1-4) struggled early, but cruised once he managed to settle down. He let four of the first five batters he faced get on base with four hits and a walk, and by the end of the inning he had allowed three runs and three hits. But for the next six innings, Strasburg looked like the dominant ace everyone expected, facing just one over the minimum, thanks to a Matt Holliday single in the sixth inning. All in all, his line was decent, but his second-worst start of the year: 7 IP, 3 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 7 K. His ERA is now 3.16 on the season. For anyone who sees his 1-4 record and declares that he isn’t as good as we thought, note that he has had a total of seven runs of support in those four losses, and that his ERA is now the exact same as it was in 2012.

Those who would similarly deride the offense would have more of a point. For the sixth straight game, no Nat not named Bryce Harper had multiple hits. The team did manage seven hits, but they were scattered harmlessly throughout the game. The team had two multi-hit innings: the sixth, when Strasburg and Denard Span singled before Harper scored Strasburg on a groundout, and the seventh, when Jhonatan Solano tried to steal on a 3-2 count, and was thrown out easily after Steve Lombardozzi struck out to end the threat. Davey Johnson decided to sit Kurt Suzuki and Adam LaRoche as a part of a lineup shakeup to try to get some offense going, but after today’s failure, he said he would consider bigger changes, such as moving Jayson Werth around and benching Danny Espinosa, who is hitting .155.

In the eighth, Drew Storen made his second appearance of the series after recording a 1-2-3 inning the first time. He allowed three hits and a run in the first four batters he faced, but stranded runners on the corners by getting the next two out. In the bottom half of that inning, Werth undid the damage with a solo homer, his fourth of the year. If you’re looking for reasons to be optimistic on offense beyond Harper, he’s a candidate: despite hitting just .259, he has only one fewer home run than he did in 81 games last season. Zach Duke managed a clean top of the ninth despite allowing a hit and a walk, and has now allowed just two runs in his last eight innings pitched since getting blown up in his first game of the year. Unfortunately, the Nats are 0-6 in games he has appeared in. Edward Mujica set the Nats down in order in the bottom of the ninth to extinguish their hopes.

The Nats’ offense is clearly struggling, having scored just four runs in their past four games, but the pitching and defense are both back to form after earlier concerns about them. The Nats allowed a total of nine runs this series, good for a 3.00 ERA. If this sudden problem goes the way of the others, the Nats should be fine this time next week. However, the Nats should get better in a hurry, because next up is four games against Cincinnati before four in Atlanta.

Next Game: Tomorrow v. Cincinnati, 7:05 PM. Gonzalez (1-1, 5.85) v. Arroyo (2-1, 3.54)