- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 27, 2016

WASHINGTON (AP) - After his team produced only two hits - one of them a bunt - and was shut out for the first time this season, Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker was asked whether he might consider making any changes to his batting order.

He smiled. And he dismissed the idea.

“It don’t really matter where you’re hitting, really,” Baker said, “if you’re not hitting.”

Bryce Harper and the rest of the Nationals were held in check by Philadelphia’s Jeremy Hellickson and a couple of relievers Wednesday night in a 3-0 loss to the Phillies.

Hellickson allowed Daniel Murphy’s ground-rule double in the second inning, and Danny Espinosa’s 500th career hit on a bunt single in the fifth - and that was it. Hector Neris followed with a perfect eighth, and Jeanmar Gomez did the same in the ninth to earn his sixth save.

“One thing: This bunch is going to hit. And you can count on that,” Baker said about his lineup. “These guys, they think they can hit. And they love to hit. And they will hit.”

At the moment, though, only Murphy (.391 average, seven doubles) and reigning NL MVP Harper (.318, nine homers, 24 RBIs) are hitting. Consider these batting averages among others who were in the order Wednesday: Ryan Zimmerman is hitting .234; Jayson Werth is at .180; Anthony Rendon is at .229; Michael A. Taylor is at .192; Espinosa is at .182; and Jose Lobaton is at .158.

And during this series against Philadelphia, Washington has produced a grand total of three runs. The Phillies will try to complete a three-game sweep Thursday.

“Right now, these last two days, when the opportunities to score are few and far between,” Murphy said, “I think guys start putting pressure on themselves a little bit more.”

Unbothered by the temperature in the low 50s or intermittent drizzles, Hellickson (2-1) struck out eight and lowered his ERA from 5.21 to 3.81.

Hellickson struck out Harper, Zimmerman and Murphy in the fourth inning, then made it four consecutive Ks by getting Werth to begin the fifth.

“He constantly changes speeds,” Espinosa said about Hellickson, the 2011 AL Rookie of the Year for Tampa Bay. “That changeup’s got a string on it. That thing stops.”

All in all, Hellickson was much better than his previous appearance against the Nationals, 12 days earlier in Philadelphia, when he gave up five earned runs in three innings during a 9-1 loss.

“We got him last time,” Baker said, “and he got us this time.”

Harper went 0 for 2 and walked twice, raising his total to five free passes in the series.

Washington starter Gio Gonzalez (1-1) took a shutout into the sixth, when a single, walk and wild pitch led to Darin Ruf’s sacrifice fly for a 1-0 lead. The Phillies made it 2-0 an inning later with an unearned run when third baseman Anthony Rendon’s throw home was way too high, earning an error and allowing Cesar Hernandez to score.

“This is one of those games - throw it behind you,” Gonzalez said.

HANGING OUT

Hernandez’s bat broke when he fouled off a pitch in the seventh, and a splintered piece of the lumber wound up dangling from the netting that protects the seats behind home plate - staying there through game’s end.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Phillies: RHP Charlie Morton will miss the rest of the season because of a torn left hamstring and is scheduled for surgery next Monday.

Nationals: RHP Matt Belisle went on the 15-day DL a day after straining his right calf during a relief appearance. LPH Sammy Solis was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse; he gives Washington three lefties in the bullpen. Solis pitched Wednesday, getting an inning-ending double play in the seventh, and allowing Phillies C Carlos Ruiz’s homer in the eighth… CF Ben Revere, on the DL since hurting his right oblique on opening day, will head out for a rehab assignment and could be back with the Nationals as soon as next week’s series at the Cubs.

UP NEXT

On Thursday, Nationals RHP Tanner Roark (2-2, 2.63 ERA) pitches for the first time since recording a career-high 15 strikeouts against the Minnesota Twins. RHP Aaron Nola (1-2, 4.50) starts for the Phillies.

___

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide