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Nationals lose for fourth time in five games, 5-3, to San Diego

July 23,2016 20:20

They have lost four of five games now, their offense again unable to absorb a few lapses by their starters, unable to take chances earned and given. “At this stage of the game, almost two-thirds of the season gone, we gotta make some changes ...and more »

Bryce Harper tosses the bat after one of his two strikeouts. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images) As he slowed down past first base after grounding out to second for the third time Friday night, Ben Revere ripped off his helmet and threw it at the ground. He whipped his head around in disgust as it bounced away, another promising chance — and another of his at-bats — tumbling away with it. Such was the state of the Nationals on Friday night as they fell to the San Diego Padres by a score of 5-3. They have lost four of five games now, their offense again unable to absorb a few lapses by their starters, unable to take chances earned and given. “At this stage of the game, almost two-thirds of the season gone, we gotta make some changes,” Nationals Manager Dusty Baker said. “We’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting, and it’s getting frustrating on the guys and frustrating on fans and frustrating to us, too.” By the time Revere came to bat in that seventh inning, the Nationals trailed by three. Tanner Roark allowed two home runs to Padres left fielder Matt Kemp — one in the first, one in the fifth, the second straight day a normally stingy Nationals starter found himself victimized by one hot hitter. Bad pitches and bad starts happen, and when they come from a rotation that statistics rate as one of the best, they do not necessarily require concern or consternation. Roark’s happened to come when the Nationals needed a good one, a day after Stephen Strasburg’s first loss of the season, at a time of year when everyone seems to be evaluating everything a little more thoroughly than normal. “I just urge everybody, don’t panic,” Baker said. “Just let us play, and we’ll come out of this.” While teams can still trade for help, even first-place teams like the Nationals must wonder where exactly they need it. Do they have enough? Will they have enough two months from now? Their rotation certainly seems to, provided Roark’s shortest outing since June 5 — five innings, five runs, 93 pitches — is not a sign of lingering trouble. One outing after his longest start of the season, he had less command than normal, missed spots and did not earn the early, easy contact he usually does. His four-seam fastball touched 94 mph, while his two-seamer was as low as 87. The two-seamer is a feel pitch, one not thrown as hard as a four-seamer and often tinkered with for effect — put a little on, take a little off and keep them guessing — so a dip that low does not necessarily mean anything. Roark has already thrown more innings this season than he did last year. “It’s a long season. I pride myself on going deep into ballgames and giving everything I got for as long as I can,” said Roark, who showed signs of cupping therapy on his right elbow after the game — not uncommon for pitchers but not something he has had during postgame interviews before. “Everyone has nicks here and there, but you gotta work through it, get better and keep working hard.” The Nationals’ offense, which ranks in the top third of baseball in runs scored and atop the National League in home runs, did not have enough to save Roark on Friday. Luis Perdomo, a 23-year-old whose ERA sat above 7.00 when the day began, held the Nationals to two runs in seven innings . The Nationals finished Thursday’s game 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position. They finished Friday night’s game 1 for 5, a hit or two away from a very different outcome — much like they have been in most losses this year. After Friday, 28 of their 40 losses have come by three runs or fewer. “That’s been avoiding us all year long. That’s been our nemesis,” Baker said. “People ask me, you know, what do we need? We need some timely, two-out base hits. Not home runs.” Jayson Werth and Daniel Murphy homered Friday. The Nationals’ other run came after Bryce Harper walked in the first. He stole second base on the next pitch, which put him in scoring position with two outs for Wilson Ramos. Ramos singled him home. Harper still leads baseball in walks and ranks in the top 10 in on-base percentage, but his average is still 30 points below his career mark, and his other rate statistics all remain lower than his norms. “I don’t think we need to change much at all. I think we’re a great team,” Harper said. “I think we’re swinging the bats well.” Ramos finished with three hits and has hit safely in 10 straight games. His second hit sparked a would-be rally for the Nationals in the fourth. Anthony Rendon singled behind him to put runners on first and second. Trea Turner struck out. Danny Espinosa hit a flyball to center. The rally fizzled. Another ended with Revere’s groundout in the seventh. Revere finished the evening hitting .214. His career average before this season was nearly .300. “It’s tough definitely. You see the pitcher, and you see him good, and you get a good pitch to hit, but you just beat it into the ground,” Revere said. “And that’s just baseball, a frustrating sport and all.” But Revere is not the only culprit, nor should it be forgotten that even with down years from him and Harper and injured Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals are still in first place. Do they have enough? They did not Friday night.

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