- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 14, 2011

Jim Riggleman thinks you’d be surprised. Step into the Washington Nationals dugout, the manager said, and the energy level, effort and positive attitudes would leap out.

“The guys are doing everything they can,” Riggleman said.

But those things don’t add up to hits and runs. And Saturday at Nationals Park they couldn’t produce a win, as the Florida Marlins blanked the Nationals 1-0.

Sure, the Nationals scored 24 runs in their previous four games. Any hopes that signalled a breakout from the season-long offensive doldrums proved illusory.

“We’re working hard and the results are not there,” said Jayson Werth, who managed a double and walk. ” We’re playing good baseball. But obviously we’re not getting the big hit. … It’s not for lack of effort. It’s not for lack of talent.”

Thirty-nine games into the season, the 18-21 Nationals have baseball’s worst batting average, second-worst on-base percentage and rank 26th in slugging percentage. The numbers didn’t get any better Saturday against Marlins right-hander Anibal Sanchez, who has made a career of bedeviling the Nationals.

Sanchez retired 17 of the first 18 batters he faced. In eight innings of work, he allowed only one runner to advance to third base and fanned nine.

This is the same pitcher who struck out 11 and held the Nationals to one run six days earlier in Florida, which improved to 23-15 with the victory. Sanchez is 7-0 against the Nationals in 16 career starts.

“He has an eclectic mix [of pitches],” Werth said. “For whatever reason he’s had success against us. I feel like I’m right on him, then I’m not. It’s just one of those things,”

But one of those things is becoming a season theme.

On Saturday, it cost the Nationals Livan Hernandez’s best outing in nearly a month. With the big curveball working — he stuck out Gaby Sanchez on a 62-miles-per-hour bender in the fourth — Hernandez cruised through seven innings, allowing one run and six hits.

The lone mistake came to Mike Stanton on a 2-2 pitch in the seventh. The ball went down the middle and Stanton lined it into the left-center-field stands. Hitting a ball much harder seems impossible.

“He hits balls that look like the trajectory of a single and they go out of the ballpark,” Riggleman said.

And the energy level, effort and positive attitudes in the Nationals’ dugout couldn’t push across a run to tie the game.

A walk and single against Marlins closer Leo Nunez to start the ninth evaporated. Adam LaRoche hit into a fielder’s choice, Wilson Ramos popped out on the first pitch he saw and Jerry Hairston flied out.

Riggleman thought Hairston just missed sending the pitch into the stands.

Like everything else Saturday, it was just one of those things.

“We’re right there,” Werth said. “It’s tough not to get frustrated with the way we’ve been playing.”

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