Thru 4 1/2: Fundamental problems

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First off, a Jesus Flores update: He had the surgery today in Birmingham, with Dr. James Andrews repairing a torn labrum in his right shoulder. The Nats are now saying Flores’ recovery time is “approximately six months.” Do the math. That takes him “approximately” to March 16. Could be tough to be ready by Opening Day 2010.

As for tonight’s game…

The Nationals only trail the Phillies 1-0 through the top of the fifth, but it feels more lopsided than that. For one thing, Joe Blanton is mowing them down. Washington has four hits so far, all of them coming from the bottom third of the lineup. Blanton has recorded six strikeouts. The Nats have not scored since the fifth inning Sunday in Florida, a span of 18 innings.

They’ve had their chances tonight. They had runners on first and third with one out in the second and Livan Hernandez at the plate. Livo laid down a bunt just in front of the plate, but Ian Desmond froze coming off third base and wound up getting thrown out trying to slide back into the bag. What happened? Apparently Jim Riggleman told the MASN guys during a between-innings interview that Hernandez bunted on his own, so Desmond had no idea it was coming. Definitely something we’ll need to ask about postgame.

Hernandez has pitched well. He allowed a first-inning run but it wasn’t entirely his fault. With runners on the corners and two outs, Ryan Howard took off from first. Catcher Wil Nieves pumped and then finally threw to second, but Cristian Guzman’s tag was late, and Chase Utley sprinted home from third without a throw. Very poor execution there by the Nats. Nieves probably should have just held onto the ball. Or the Nats should have had a play on where Guzman ran in front of the base and then was in position to fire to the plate to nail the leading runner.

Poor fundamentals aside, the Nats still are very much in this one and could steal a win tonight.

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Mark Zuckerman

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