Nationals miss a chance

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The Nationals need to get as much as they can out of their pitching staff because their lineup simply can’t be counted on to score more than a handful of runs a game.

They managed just two on five hits last night against the unaccomplished duo of starter Ismael Valdez (2-1) and reliever Brian Moehler (three scoreless innings). Veteran closer Todd Jones then finished things off in the ninth for his 35th save, getting rookie Ryan Zimmerman — the potential tying run — to fly out to end the game.

“That’s a guy we have to beat,” outfielder Marlon Byrd said of Valdez. “Especially with the guys they’ve got coming up behind him. … We expected to win tonight.”

Rasner, forced to share a locker with Travis Hughes in RFK’s overflowing clubhouse, made it through two innings unscathed but could not get out of the third. Doubles by Damion Easley and Jeremy Hermida, sandwiched around Luis Castillo’s single, brought two runs home and brought stirs from the Washington bullpen.

When Rasner later gave up an RBI double to Juan Encarnacion, the night was over for the organization’s 2002 second-round draft pick.

“I’m glad I got this opportunity,” Rasner said. “I wish it could have gone a little better for this ballclub.”

The Nationals did remain within striking distance and in the bottom of the third got two of the runs back on Brad Wilkerson’s 11th homer.

Robinson kept trying everything after that. Not only did he need 61/3 innings out of his bullpen, he also needed to go for broke every time his team had a chance to score a run.

So with two outs and two on in the fourth and the pitcher’s spot coming up, Robinson sent out a most unlikely pinch-hitter: Jose Vidro, the usual starting second baseman who has been sidelined with a lingering knee injury. The club has hoped Vidro can help out down the stretch with an occasional at-bat in key situations, and this one certainly qualified. But with a chance to tie the game, he lifted a soft pop-up behind the third-base coaching box, ending the inning.

The Nationals never seriously threatened again.

“I just felt like I had to take a shot early with Vidro,” Robinson said. “He didn’t get it done, and then we didn’t do much else.”

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