WASHINGTON -- The Nationals made sure to credit Arizona's starting pitchers the past two nights. But it's still their job to get hits and score runs, they said, and as good as Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson were, mostly Washington just came up short.
Thursday's series finale proved that, as Washington consistently put men on base against rookie starter Wade Miley, but even more consistently left them there.
The Nats fell, 8-1, in front of 17,666 at Nationals Park, as the D-backs won the four-game series. Washington went 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position in the finale -- with Michael Morse driving in the only run with an RBI single -- and 3-for-36 in the series.
"It seems like we're a little flat," manager Davey Johnson said. "We usually look like we want it. I give credit to the opposing pitcher, but I think a lot of it is we just didn't go after it. I'll have conversations with everybody offensively on our ballclub on this road trip. We're better than we showed."
The Nationals head to Cincinnati after a homestand that started with series wins against the Reds and Phillies, but ended with a bullpen implosion and a 5-5 record.
With another strong outing from Washington's starter, Johnson repeated his sentiment of the past two nights: If the Nationals could keep it close, they were in it.
John Lannan did that for six innings, then Tyler Clippard had a rare rough outing, allowing three runs in an eighth inning that saw Johnson use three relievers. Henry Rodriguez allowed three more in the ninth.
"Tyler Clippard is a very tough pitcher, you look at his numbers," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "Tonight, we scored some runs off some pretty good pitching."
Washington proved unable to do the same.
The Nationals left two men on base in each of the first three innings, sat down in order in the fourth, then stranded two men in the fifth. Johnson pinch-hit for Lannan in the sixth with Jesus Flores on second and two out, but Rick Ankiel grounded out to second to end Miley's night.
The left-hander picked up his first Major League win, throwing six scoreless innings after the Braves roughed him up for five runs over four innings Saturday in his debut.
"It's always a tough time with the younger guys," Jonny Gomes said. "There's not many reports on him, not many at-bats. Maybe by the time you think you have him figured out he's out of the game. We got some runners on, but he beared down and started pitching a little different with runners in scoring position. He did a good job."
Lannan did a good job, as well, but the Nationals were again unable to support a strong pitching performance marred only by runs at the end of it.
Jordan Zimmermann pitched six dominant innings on Tuesday, then allowed a two-run homer in the seventh. Livan Hernandez cruised through seven on Wednesday, then allowed two crucial runs in the eighth. And Lannan was in control for the first five innings of the finale, but Chris Young belted a two-run homer in the sixth.
"That's pretty much the outing right there," Lannan said.
Then the bullpen took over and made the two-run game Lannan exited seem like a distant memory. Although the offense continued to leave runs on the table, it never really mattered.
"I thought we should've swung the bats better all series, really," Johnson said. "Credit to their pitching staff, but we had a letdown."
Steven Miller is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.