The Washington Times - July 3, 2009, 11:25PM

Pitching was the problem early, and pitching was the problem late in the Nats’ 9-8 loss to the Braves tonight. Despite an offense that battled for eight runs, Washington lost for the sixth time in seven games because of Ross Detwiler’s short outing and a bullpen that couldn’t keep a tie game tied.

Detwiler lasted just 3 1/3 innings, the shortest start of his career, and talked afterward about losing the release point on his fastball, just as he did last Friday in Baltimore. When that happens, he can’t sink the ball; instead, he leaves it up in the strike zone and gets hit. Pretty simple, but it’s something Detwiler has struggled with off-and-on in his entire month-and-a-half stint in the big leagues. He was never supposed to be in the majors for this long, and it’s worth asking whether the Nationals will send him to Class AAA Syracuse to continue working on his delivery, as they were planning to do in May.

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“He struggled mightily. He couldn’t get the ball down at all,” manager Manny Acta said. “Every pitch was up. Every one of them. That’s a veteran club, and if you can’t get the ball down, they’ll hit you.”

The bullpen’s problems were just as elementary. Jesus Colome walked two in the seventh, making pinch hitter Brooks Conrad’s first big-league homer hurt that much more. Colome, Ron Villone and Julian Tavarez issued five walks between them, though one was intentional.

“It’s hard to turn to any one of them right now,” Acta said. “Every one of them is struggling.”

On a more positive note, the Nats’ offense surged against the Braves’ pitching staff tonight. Adam Dunn hit his 21st homer, tying him for 5th in the NL, and Cristian Guzman drove in three runs from the No. 6 hole for the first time. But it was just another high-scoring loss for the Nats.