It’s time, Nationals manager Davey Johnson said, “to get a little mad.”
Tough to argue that point, especially after the Nats’ latest loss. St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright struck out nine Nationals en route to a 2-0 victory Tuesday night at Nationals Park.
The defeat was Washington’s fifth straight at home and the team that started the season 7-2 is now 10-10. Yes, indeed, it remains very early in the season. But early is about half-done and the Nats are in a funk.
Johnson said there will be “a few changes” when the Nats close out the series with the Cardinals on Wednesday. Game time is 1:05 p.m.
“I’m usually pretty patient,” Johnson said. “The effort’s there. We’re just not getting done. This has been about a week we’ve been real quiet offensively. It’s frustrating.
“When it rains, it pours. When you sometimes go in a little funk, it is magnified. And it is probably, the way I read this ballclub, everybody’s trying to do something, maybe trying to do a little too much instead of trying to do what’s there. Hit the ball hard somewhere, get on base, get some momentum going.”
Patient the Nationals weren’t. Wainwright needed four pitches to get out of one inning, five to get out of another. He struck out the side in the fourth. He struck out Adam LaRoche with the bases loaded in the sixth.
“I felt good early, and I tried to command what I was doing,” Wainwright said. “It’s a very, very solid lineup over there and they’ve gotten some numbers on me in the past. I knew that you could go two ways with it: You either remember those games and give them too much credit and go out there defeated already, or you say, ‘No, I’m a good enough pitcher to get anyone out.’ That’s what I chose to do.”
LaRoche, the Nationals’ cleanup hitter with Ryan Zimmerman on the disabled list, struck out four times and saw his average fall to .172. Danny Espinosa is at .167 after an 0-3 night. Bryce Harper, who remains hot with a .366 average, had two hits including a double to lead off the ninth. He stayed on second as Wainwright and Edward Mujica retired the next three Nats.
“The whole team is frustrated,” LaRoche said. “What are you going to do? Are you going to try harder? Are you going to swing harder? It doesn’t work. We have to stick with our plan and expect it to work eventually.
“Needless to say, they had my number tonight. Punched out four times and left a hundred guys (actually five) on base. Bad timing. All of it.”
What would he change, given his slow start? He has 22 strikeouts in 58 at-bats this season.
“Making contact would be a pretty good start. Try to start there,” LaRoche said.
The Nats got another strong pitching effort from Ross Detwiler, who gave up two runs in the fourth but did a nice job minimizing the damage. He was helped by four double plays in the first five innings. Detwiler has now given up four earned runs in 26 innings (1.38 ERA) and he has a 1-1 record to show for it.
“It’s a team loss, it’s not just me,” Detwiler said. “We’re just not playing well right now. It’s going to turn. We just have to force it to turn … start winning some games.”
Stephen Strasburg, who is off to a 1-3 start and hasn’t won since Opening Day, will pitch Wednesday’s series finale against left-hander Jaime Garcia (1-1, 3.22 ERA). Johnson’s lineup juggling may give some regulars a chance to clear their heads, to stop pressing. LaRoche, who is a candidate to sit in favor of Tyler Moore, doesn’t think anything major needs to be done.
It is, after all, still early.
“I don’t think it is time for drastic changes in here, for guys to lose control,” LaRoche said. “You ride it out. That’s why we play 162 of them.”