- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 22, 2005

TORONTO — As soon as the Washington Nationals crossed the border into Canada, the club’s pitching and hitting went south.

For the second straight game, the Nationals mounted little in the way of offense and their starting pitcher put the team in an early hole.

Right-hander Tony Armas Jr. surrendered four runs in the first two innings, and the Nationals produced just four hits the entire game as the Toronto Blue Jays won 7-0 yesterday in an interleague game before 24,518 at Rogers Centre.

Blue Jays starter Roy Halladay pitched the first seven innings before two relievers threw a hitless inning apiece to hand the Nationals (23-20) their fourth shutout this season. With the win, the right-handed Halladay, who was the 2003 American League Cy Young Award winner, improved to 7-2 with a 2.84 ERA.

“He changes speeds well and throws strikes with a good fastball,” Nationals manager Frank Robinson said.

Returning to Canada for the first time since the franchise was known as the Montreal Expos has not been pleasant for the Nationals. In two games, Washington has been outscored 13-1 and outhit 22-9.

“We just lost two games, I don’t [think] that’s a slump,” Nationals outfielder Jose Guillen said. “I’m not calling it a slump. We just lost two games and that’s it. If we lost 10 or 15 in a row, then you can tell me that’s a slump. We just haven’t been hitting or pitching well.”

Yesterday’s loss assured the Nationals of their sixth series loss this season. Washington has won eight series and tied one.

Inconsistent Nationals right-hander Tomo Ohka (2-3, 4.04) will go against Blue Jays right-hander Josh Towers (5-1, 3.17) today to try and salvage the final game of this three-game series. The Nationals have not been swept this season.

Singles by Guillen, Nick Johnson and Ryan Church and a double by Jeffrey Hammonds were the only hits the Nationals had off Halladay, whose fastball was in the low 90s and helped set up his high-70s curve.

The 6-foot-6 Halladay only struck out two, but won his third straight start while working at least seven innings for the fifth straight time. Halladay retired the last 13 Nationals he faced.

“As a team, you’ve got to have the maturity and the confidence that you can make the pitcher work, make him get the ball up in the zone, and be patient and get on base any way you can,” Nationals center fielder Brad Wilkerson said. “We’re up there swinging early in the pitch count and we’re down four runs. I think we swung at the first pitch three or four innings in a row. That’s not good baseball.”

Armas (1-2, 5.49), who was looking for his second consecutive victory, got in trouble early. Blue Jays leadoff batter Orlando Hudson doubled to lead off the game. With one out, third baseman Alex Rios clubbed his AL-leading fifth triple of the season off the left-center field wall to easily scored Hudson and give Toronto (23-20) the first run of the game. Shea Hillenbrand scored Rios on a sacrifice fly to left.

The Blue Jays scored two more runs in the second inning. First baseman Eric Hinske walked and scored on rookie Aaron Hill’s double to right for a 3-0 lead. Hudson, who went 3-for-4 with a single, double and triple, knocked in Hill with a single to right.

Toronto nailed Armas for two more runs in the sixth inning when Hinske belted his fifth home run of the season — a two-run shot — 384 feet over the right-field wall. Hudson led off the seventh inning with a triple and scored on Frank Catalanotto’s single that gave the Blue Jays a 7-0 lead.

Armas allowed all seven Toronto runs on 10 hits in seven innings.

“They had a big inning and it just went from there,” Armas said. “It was one of those days everything they hit was hard-hit balls.”

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