Nats blanked by Dodgers
Shutout is 15th of season and third in less than a week
LOS ANGELES -- After watching the Nationals pound the Braves, 15-6, on July 20, hitting coach Lenny Harris thought the offense was coming around. He had good reason to think this way. The previous day, the team scored eight runs against Atlanta.
But since scoring a combined 23 runs, the Nationals' bats have been missing in action. Sunday was arguably the worst day of all, as they were blanked by the Dodgers, 2-0, and give Los Angeles a three-game sweep at Dodger Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
It marked the 15th time the Nationals were shut out this season and third time in less than a week in which they were unable to score a run in a game. Washington has the worst offense in the Major Leagues with a .241 batting average.
"You can't point any fingers. Those guys are giving it all they've got right now," Harris said. "When we were banging out all those hits [in Atlanta], I said, 'Here we go. We are starting to take off.' The next thing you know, we ran into another brick wall. ... They've faced great pitching, but you have to hit to win. We haven't been hitting the ball like I thought we would be hitting it after we left Atlanta.
"This league is tougher than you think. Every time we come into a city, we are facing a No. 1 or No. 2 pitcher. ... You have to give credit where credit is due. Those guys [on the Dodgers' staff] pitched well. Derek Low pitched well. They have [Jonathan Broxton] in the bullpen who throws 100 mph. So it's not easy."
Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw was the brick wall on Sunday. He pitched six-plus innings and scattered four hits. The Nationals put a runner in scoring position against him only twice: in the first and fourth innings.
Shortstop Nomar Garciaparra's throwing error allowed Ryan Zimmerman to get to second base in the first inning. Three innings later, Kershaw tried to pick off Zimmerman at first base, but Kershaw threw the ball away, allowing Zimmerman to take the extra base.
With the lack of runs, outfielder Lastings Milledge tried to make things happen, but it all backfired in the fifth inning. He led off the inning with a bunt single. Paul Lo Duca was the next hitter and hit a routine ground ball to third baseman Casey Blake. Lo Duca was thrown out easily at first, but Milledge attempted to go to third on the play and was thrown out for the double play.
It turned out to be a terrible decision. The next hitter, Wil Nieves, doubled to left field. After the game, both Milledge and manager Manny Acta thought the former was trying to be aggressive.
"Obviously, it doesn't look good now, but if he made it, this question would not come up," Acta said. "He is an aggressive guy. I would rather see him do that than just play station to station. It just backfired on us. We are trying to manufacture some runs. Sometimes, these kids try to do more."
Said Milledge about going to third, "I thought it was a good play. We want to be aggressive on the basepaths. I actually outran Blake, but Nomar got there in time. They had to make three perfect plays, so they made it and they got me. It was good on their part. I thought it was a great decision on my part and I went for it."
Nationals right-hander Jason Bergmann had another quality start, but he ended up with his seventh straight loss after allowing two runs on six hits. He hasn't won a game since May 15 against the Mets.
In the second inning, James Loney homered, and Juan Pierre scored on a Russell Martin single three innings later.
Talk to Bergman and he will say that it wasn't one of his better outings.
"It was a struggle," Bergmann said. "I didn't feel I had my best stuff today. I felt a little off. I was disappointed that I left one down the middle for Loney, who led off the inning. I wanted to get ahead. I didn't want to leave it down the middle. He caught all of it."
At 38-67, the Nationals are riding a six-game losing streak, but Acta wouldn't say his club has hit rock bottom.
"It was a rough West Coast trip," Acta said. "We won two out of three games in Atlanta and I didn't hear that question. How many games make rock bottom? Losing 2-0, 1-0? Is that rock bottom? I really don't know that definition. You pick when we hit rock bottom."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.