Nats problems mounting after sweep
Nine straight losses contribute to painful season in Washington
WASHINGTON -- A season of injury, losing and mounting frustration in the nation's capital reached a new low Thursday, on Major League Baseball's most stressful day no less. The Nationals can only hope it sinks no lower.
An 8-4 loss to visiting Philadelphia left Washington reeling from a nine-game, three-series losing streak and garnered them the dubious honor of becoming the league's first 70-game loser. And Thursday night, there were casualties: catcher Paul Lo Duca and infielder Felipe Lopez were both handed their unconditional release, gone to make way for a healthy Elijah Dukes and a red-hot Emilio Bonifacio.
The game itself never saw the Nationals lead.
Philadelphia, which has the National League's second-best offense, got things going early against Washington, opening up a 3-0 lead in the second inning off starter John Lannan. Jayson Werth first tapped the Nationals starter with a solo home run, a changeup Lannan said "came across the plate."
"I cut it off a little bit," Lannan said after the game.
The Nationals struck back for one run in the bottom of the second when Kory Casto scored after doubling and another run an inning later when Ryan Zimmerman scored on a Jesus Flores single.
But Lannan got tapped again in the fourth when Jimmy Rollins deposited his eighth home run in the left-field bleachers -- Lannan said the pitch "cut in" again -- to extend the Phillies' lead to 5-2. Still, only one of the runs was earned after pitcher Kyle Kendrick reached first on a throwing error by Flores after striking out.
The sixth inning and another error would prove to be Lannan's undoing. After getting the first two outs in the frame, Lannan gave up a double to Rollins, who then scored on a Ronnie Belliard throwing error, cuing the Washington rookie's exit from the game.
Lannan did register seven strikeouts on the night, the second most he's recorded in a start this year.
"My slider and curveball felt good tonight, when I wasn't overthrowing or trying to do too much with it," Lannan said. "My fastball felt good too. I just didn't make pitches when I needed to."
Perhaps the Nationals' most promising young player, Lannan was the subject of surprising trade rumors before the game -- rumors that had no legs, according to general manager Jim Bowden. After the game, Lannan said talk of getting moved to another team had no effect on his performance.
"It was kind of out of the blue," Lannan said. "Nothing happened, so I didn't think too much of it."
The Nationals couldn't even beat the injury bug Thursday, as Zimmerman had to leave the game following the third inning after taking a pitch off his hand. X-rays were negative, and after the game, Zimmerman -- who just returned from a left shoulder injury -- didn't seem worried about missing much time.
Still, it was another scare for a team riddled with injuries all season long. After the game, infielder Pete Orr -- starting in place of injured All-Star shortstop Cristian Guzman -- said the key for the Nationals is not to use their health problems as an excuse.
"You never want to do that," Orr said. "Yea, we've had some bad luck -- real bad luck. But, you know, the guys that are here, we're still big league baseball players, and we have pride, and we wanna go out and play hard and win."
Orr, who went 3-for-4 with three singles and a run scored, was frank when asked where he thought the Nationals' season could go from Thursday night on.
"There's only one way for it to go," Orr said, pausing. "I think ... it's got to get better.
"It's been real tough on everybody. You know, you try to relax and just let things go and win, and that didn't work. So you try to play harder, and that doesn't win either. We've just got to get a win, and then hopefully guys can start playing their game again."
Zachary Osterman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.