The Washington Times - July 12, 2009, 07:45PM

The Nationals departed for the All-Star break on Sunday after a 5-0 loss to the Houston Astros. They finished their road trip 1-6 (not counting Thursday’s makeup win, which we can attribute to the game’s May 5 start date), and are 26-61 at the break.

Like in probably 30 or so of those losses, the Nationals couldn’t drive in a run on Sunday when they needed two. They got 11 hits, the most by a team that’s been shut out this season, and went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position. They left Wil Nieves at second in the third inning, finished the sixth and seventh innings with the bases loaded an the eighth with runners on first and second.


“When we struggle offensively, it’s not necessarily getting hits and runners on base. It’s getting runners in,” Willingham said. “Today was one of those days where we got people on base, had (Astros starter Brian) Moehler on the ropes, but we couldn’t get a run.”

As a team, the Nats are hitting .264 this year; with runners in scoring position, that number dips to .247.

Jordan Zimmermann had one of his better outings—for the first six innings, anyway. He’d given up just one unearned run until the sixth, when he hit Geoff Blum, allowed a single from Hunter Pence and surrendered a three-run homer to Kaz Matsui on a fastball that missed its spot. Zimmermann fumed for a second, and then walked pitcher Alberto Arias on four pitches. That’s when Manny Acta pulled him.

“For a moment, I didn’t think he knew at the beginning that it was the pitcher up,” manager Manny Acta said. “To do that proved to me that he was probably disappointed to give up the home run and lost his focus.”

One roster move after the game today: the Nats optioned Ross Detwiler to Class AAA Syracuse. They’re expected to recall Garrett Mock, who has been lights-out for the Chiefs, later this week to be their fourth starter. He was 5-1 at Syracuse with a 2.65 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 51 innings. If he’s figured out how to throw more strikes and set up his three off-speed pitches with his fastball, Mock can be a good big-league starter.

As for Detwiler, who declined to comment on his demotion through a team spokesman, Acta had nothing bad to say about his time in the major leagues, and it’s tough to criticize much of what he did up here after how lost he looked at Class A Potomac last year and in spring training. The former first-rounder appears to have a better sense of what works and what doesn’t, and while he lost command of his fastball too often in his last three starts (where he had an 11.67 ERA), he showed at times he’s got the stuff to be an effective starter.

So there you have it. One half in the books, and the Nats are on pace to go 48-114. They start the second half with a four-game series against the Cubs on Thursday, and don’t have another off-day until August 10. Between two dozen baseball games, the trade deadline and the fast-approaching Aug. 17 deadline to sign Stephen Strasburg, there will be plenty to talk about. We’ll try to set some of it up for you on the blog throughout the next few days and with the second-half preview story I’m working on for Thursday.

If you’re curious about the All-Star Game festivities and Ryan Zimmerman’s part in them, Mark will have you covered from St. Louis starting tomorrow.