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“We’re dead in the water,” Robinson said. “No one tries to bunt to get something going. You don’t see a hitter walk up to home plate and even make an effort to work the count. We seem to go up and say, ‘Let’s jump on the first pitch that looks like a strike, and let’s get out of here.’ That’s the way it looks.”

It didn’t help matters that Washington was playing from behind nearly all afternoon. Left-hander Matt White, called up from Class AAA New Orleans on Friday night for his first career start, made it through two innings unscathed but cracked in the third, walking two batters and hitting another. Albert Pujols lofted a sacrifice fly to right to bring home the Cardinals’ first run. So Taguchi followed with a two-out, two-run single to left on a hanging curveball.

“Everything was going good there until the third inning,” said White, who was optioned back to New Orleans after the game. “I just kind of got behind some hitters, and you can’t do that here.”

After he surrendered one more run in the fourth, White’s day was done. A trio of Washington relievers tried to keep their team in the game after that, but Mike Stanton served up a two-run homer to light-hitting shortstop David Eckstein in the seventh.

It was the final blow in an unsavory ballgame from the Nationals’ perspective, one that quickly erased any good vibes from the previous night’s victory.

“What’s really baffled me is [how] we can come and play with energy like we did yesterday, and the next day not bring the same type of intensity and energy,” Robinson said. “That’s what I don’t understand.”