- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 25, 2011

MILWAUKEE — There aren’t too many scenes from the Washington Nationals’ most recent road trip that they’ll be playing on highlight tapes. Their one victory in the past eight games aside, it was a trip that began with offensive futility and ended with maddening all-around inconsistency.

When they get lock-down pitching, they have rarely had the offense to support it; when the hits do come, as they did Tuesday night and in Wednesday’s 6-4 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, their pitching isn’t sharp.

Whatever the reason for each loss, the fact remains that the Nationals left Washington eight days ago one game under .500. They return in much more dire straits.

“We have been close the whole time; we just can’t get over the hump,” said right fielder Jayson Werth. “We’ll get right there, and we’ll have opportunities and chances to win games, but we don’t win them and we should.”

The one win on the trip was a big one; a milestone 17-run night in Baltimore. But ultimately that outburst — and victory — proved more illusory than anything. For one night it served to cover up the inadequacies and inefficiencies of a team that has given up 35 runs since its last win and has lost a season-high straight games.

“It was a terrible trip,” said manager Jim Riggleman. “You’re 1-7. That’s a bad road trip.”

The seventh loss was as nondescript as one loss in a 162-game season could be. The Nationals got hitting, but not at the right time. They got solid pitching, but only after starter Jason Marquis became the third straight Washington pitcher to put his team in a two-run hole after the first inning. Their bullpen held the Brewers to just two hits in the game’s final three innings but surrendered two runs with the help of two walks and an error.

It was a loss that prompted talk of change among the Nationals.

“I’ve got some ideas obviously and some thoughts that I don’t really want to share with the world,” Werth said. “But I think it’s pretty obvious what’s going on around here. I’m not going to get into it right now. It is what it is. It’s unfortunate. We’re a way better ball club.”

“I believe in these guys in here,” he added. “We’ve got a great group of guys, we’ve got a lot of talent, we just need to keep going. A lot of these guys are still learning, and we’ve got to make sure that they continue to develop regardless of winning or losing because I think that’s important for the future of this club. But things need to change.”

Things have changed some for Marquis, who lost for the second time this season. He was one of the Nationals‘ best starters, working deep into games and allowing more than three earned runs in an appearance just once. But he has a 5.94 ERA in 16 2/3 innings over his past three starts.

It was two doubles that did him in Wednesday, one by Prince Fielder, good for two runs in the first, and the other by Rickie Weeks to lead off the third, two offerings that had Marquis questioning his pitch selection. A homer by Brewers pitcher Zack Greinke - who allowed three runs and struck out 10 in seven innings - was icing on the cake of a Nationals road trip gone awry.

“We’ve just got to find a way to put it all together,” Riggleman said. “We’ve had parts but not too often lately on the same day.”

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