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Suddenly, it's a losing proposition for Nationals

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Sports,MLB,Nationals,Kevin Dunleavy

After sweep by St. Louis, Washington drops below .500 for first time since 2011

The perplexing silence of the bats of the Washington Nationals produced an eerie quiet from the crowd of 33,694 in the late innings Wednesday at Nationals Park. A Jayson Werth solo home run was only a momentary break as the Nats lost for the ninth time in their last 12 games. Questions about when is the appropriate time to worry grew louder.

The St. Louis Cardinals' 4-2 victory came on a day when Washington ace Stephen Strasburg pitched well enough to win but got little support from a slump-ridden offense, which has produced two or fewer runs in eight of the last 11 games. The Nats (10-11) managed seven hits against four St. Louis pitchers but failed to produce in the clutch and dropped under the .500 mark for the first time since 2011.

"Things just aren't going our way right now," Werth said. "We pitch, we don't hit. We hit, we don't pitch. They always say better lucky than good. We're neither right now."

It was the second straight home series in which the Nats were swept. The last time that happened was 2008, when the Nats won 59 games, the fewest of any team in the majors. With the Reds (13-9) coming to town Thursday night, manager Davey Johnson said to expect more lineup changes.

"I'm gonna have to juggle it up, change the mindset," Johnson said. "Get [Steve Lombardozzi] in the lineup, get him hitting at the top of the order. Maybe move Werth around."

Against left-hander Jaime Garcia (2-1), the Nats put only two runners on base in the first five innings. When they had opportunities in the next three frames, they failed to take advantage.

In the sixth with two on and two out, Ian Desmond struck out. In the seventh, Lombardozzi fanned with two on, triggering an inning-ending double play as Jhonatan Solano was thrown out stealing. After Werth hit his fourth home run and Harper walked in the eighth, pinch-hitter Adam LaRoche extended his recent miseries with a strikeout, and Desmond followed in kind.

It was more of the same from a team that opened the game 23rd in the majors with a .236 batting average.

"It is the first time as a team we've played with expectations, so I think there's a learning curve," Werth said.

St. Louis (13-8) got all the runs it needed in the first inning off Strasburg (1-4), who struggled with his control early but retired 19 of the final 20 batters he faced. The four-game losing streak for the right-hander is the longest of his young career.

In the three-run first, Strasburg was victimized by two opposite-field bloopers -- a double by leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter and a two-run single by Yadier Molina. Another run came home when third baseman Anthony Rendon made a questionable decision on a ground ball, throwing wildly to second base.

Afterward, Werth joked that former Lakers coach Phil Jackson might be of assistance.

"We need to call him up and have him come in here and burn some sage or something," Werth said. "We're not very feng shui right now."

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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