- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 27, 2006

When the Washington Nationals receive strong pitching, they can’t hit. When they hit, they can’t pitch.

Yesterday, the Nationals couldn’t hit or field.

Manager Frank Robinson — whose team suffered its first shutout of the season — was left wondering whether he assembled the right parts out of spring training.

Cincinnati right-hander Bronson Arroyo one-hit the Nationals over eight innings as the Reds blanked the Nationals 5-0, completing a three-game sweep at RFK Stadium.

The reeling Nationals (7-14) dropped to 1-7 at home and have lost four in a row.

“If you panic in April and start thinking about it in April, then we made mistakes coming out of spring training by taking these 25 players,” Robinson said. “I’m not saying we didn’t make a mistake, I’m saying that’s what you really have to look at. We’re not performing the way I feel like this ballclub is capable of performing, for whatever reason. I can’t put my finger on it.”

Arroyo (4-0) was part of the problem. He baffled the Nationals with his array of offspeed pitches and fell one inning shy of his second career complete game. Rookie third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was the only National to collect a hit, a fourth-inning single to right field.

“Bronson Arroyo was brilliant,” Reds manager Jerry Narron said. “I think they tried to stack the lineup with left-handers against him and it still didn’t do a lot of good. He changed speeds extremely well. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for him, but it looked pretty easy from the side.”

The Nationals hope a change of scenery can kickstart the club. Washington begins a four-game series in St. Louis today, then travels to Shea Stadium to take on the division-leading New York Mets for a two-game series. The Nationals are 6-7 on the road this season.

“We’ve been playing good ball on the road,” catcher Brian Schneider said. “We lost some games here. It’s way too early to be saying that [we’re in disarray], in my opinion.”

Cincinnati, which took the lead on catcher David Ross’ third-inning solo homer, broke open the game in fourth inning. Nationals starter Ramon Ortiz threw a ball away into center field trying to turn a double-play that allowed Felipe Lopez to score and make it 2-0.

Two batters later, the Reds made it 4-0 when Edwin Encarnacion blooped a single into center field. Ryan Church misjudged the hop, allowing Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns to score.

“It was tough to see, but after I saw it, I came busting in and it just checked up on me and just kicked to my right,” Church said. “There was nothing I really could do. I couldn’t get to it. It was just one of those things.”

Ortiz (0-3, 6.75 ERA) took the loss, but went 62/3 innings and didn’t strain an already overworked bullpen.

Right-hander Jon Rauch became the 48th big leaguer to strike out four batters in an inning when he accomplished the feat in the eighth. The last player to fan four in an inning was teammate Mike Stanton on Aug. 3, 2004, against Milwaukee while playing for the Mets.

However, the story of this game was Arroyo, who matched his career-best start from a year ago when he went 4-0 with Boston.

“I’ll take it,” said Arroyo, who evened his career road record at 20-20. “I went out there today and I knew I had good stuff in the pen. It was one of those days that I could tell in the first five pitches warming up. If you have good stuff in a park like this that is so big, you can be really aggressive and go after these guys.”

Got a question about the Nats? Mark Zuckerman has the answers. To

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