Anemic Nationals lineup goes silent again in loss to Cardinals

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Wainwright holds Nats without a run

During their recent power outage, the Washington Nationals have been silenced by pitchers dynamic (Matt Harvey) and crafty (Paul Maholm), illustrious (Tim Hudson) and obscure (Dylan Gee).

On Tuesday night, one of the most menacing pitchers in the game, Adam Wainwright, caught the slumping Nats at a good time. Twenty-six months removed from Tommy John surgery, the Cardinals right-hander demonstrated that he is fast approaching his previous form.

In a 2-0 win at Nationals Park before 29,986, Wainwright, with ninth-inning relief help from Edward Mujica, limited Washington to five hits, while striking out nine and pitching his way out of the only serious jam that he encountered.

Consistently getting ahead of hitters, Wainwright flashed the dominating stuff of his last three pre-injury seasons when he went a combined 50-22.

"He does a good job not throwing the ball in the middle," Nats catcher Kurt Suzuki said.

In losing for the eighth time in their last 11 games, the Nationals (10-10) fell to .500 for the first time since starting 2-2 last April. In seven of the last 10 games, Washington has scored two or fewer runs. For one of the few times this season, manager Davey Johnson reflected some of the Nats' frustration.

"I'm usually pretty patient but I'm getting at rope's end," Johnson said. "We have the players who can get it done, we're just not getting it done. It's time to get a little mad."

Johnson said that he would shake up the lineup for Wednesday's series finale as the Nats try to avoid getting swept in consecutive home series for the first time since 2008.

Washington put more than one runner on base in only one inning -- the sixth. Ground-ball singles by Suzuki and Denard Span put runners at the corners with one out and the heart of the lineup coming to the plate. But Jayson Werth popped up to second base. After Bryce Harper worked Wainwright (4-1) for his lone walk of the night, cleanup hitter Adam LaRoche struck out, a theme for the first baseman as he did so on all four of his at-bats.

Other than that, Washington got a runner as far as second base only twice as infielders Ian Desmond, Anthony Rendon and Danny Espinosa contributed to the anemic offense, going a combined 0-for-10.

"His cutter's moving well. His sinker's moving well. He was just living on the corner," Espinosa said. "He wasn't making a mistake in the middle of the plate."

Washington wasted a rare night of solid defense. The Nats, who entered the game leading the majors in errors with 18, were flawless in the field and turned four double plays in the first five innings. Left-hander Ross Detwiler (1-1) wasn't sharp, giving up eight hits in six innings, but still put together a quality start before Henry Rodriguez and Tyler Clippard combined for three hitless innings.

St. Louis (12-8) got all the runs it needed in the fourth inning as it bunched four straight hits -- all to right field. Allen Craig's double to the corner scored Shane Robinson. Craig later scored on a single to Carlos Beltran.

"Their guy threw a great game," Detwiler, a St. Louis native, said. "Obviously things aren't going well. We're just not playing well right now. We know it's going to turn. We just have to force it to turn, grind it out a little bit and start winning some games."

On Wednesday afternoon, Washington will turn to Stephen Strasburg (1-3) while St. Louis pitches left-hander Jamie Garcia (1-1).

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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Kevin Dunleavy

Staff writer - sports
The Washington Examiner