The Washington Times - September 2, 2009, 01:57AM

In the last two days, the Nationals have gotten two quality starts, a complete game and two losses from their starting pitchers. This is a different permutation of the way Washington loses games, and it’s less puzzling than a multitude of errors or blown saves in bulk. But it’s still costing the Nationals some chances to win on the strength of good pitching performances.

J.D. Martin allowed three runs in six innings tonight, striking out a career-high five, but the Nats still lost 4-1 to the Padres. They’ve scored three runs in their last three games, and could get swept tomorrow with John Lannan on the mound.

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As it stands now, the losing streak is at five, and in four of those games, Washington has scored two runs or less. Some of that is easy to explain — leadoff hitter Nyjer Morgan is out for the year, and No. 2 hitter Cristian Guzman is still nursing bunions on his feet.

But left fielder Josh Willingham has hit a prolonged slump — possibly the counterpart to his ridiculous hot streak from early this summer — and first baseman Adam Dunn is also struggling.

Whatever the problem, Washington won’t have too much longer to fix it. The Nationals start a run of games against playoff-contending division opponents on Friday at home against Florida. They have one series the rest of the year outside the NL East, and it’s against the West-leading Dodgers.

The Nats need to go 17-12 to avoid 100 losses. It’s tough to see that happening.

But they’ll keep plugging away tomorrow in a 3:35 start against the Padres. John Lannan faces Sean West. Talk to you then.