HOUSTON -- Too many strikeouts, too many errors and not enough runs.The Nationals struck out 13 times, for the second game in a row, shortstop Ian Desmond made three errors and Washington scored only once in a 5-1 loss to the Houston Astros on Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park. Manager Jim Riggleman didn't act overly concerned about the strikeouts. "I worry more about how we play," Riggleman said. "Are we playing hard? Are we concentrating? Are we ready pitch-to-pitch? The hitting, I can't control that. All I can do is wait for it to come, and I know it's going to."
Wil Nieves' strikeout with the bases loaded and one out in the fourth inning, trailing 2-1, was the one that hurt the Nationals the most. That brought up pitcher John Lannan, who also struck out to end the inning."I have no explanation for that one," outfielder Josh Willingham said of the 13 K's, none of which were his. The Nationals managed only seven hits in the game and left 10 on base. "It's just not happening right now," Riggleman said. "I look at the glass as half full. How many times we had runners out there. We've had bases loaded many times in this series. If we continue to do that, we're going to score a lot of runs. We're going to get our hits. We're just in a rut right now." Lannan (2-3) did a solid job, allowing eight hits but only two earned runs. "It was an OK outing," Lannan said. "I wish I could have done better. Changeup felt good. When I needed to throw a strike, I did. The curveball felt pretty good." Leading 1-0 entering the bottom of the third, Lannan gave up a leadoff single to Michael Bourn and a two-run homer to Carlos Lee with two outs. "It was a fastball down the middle," Lannan said. "My sinker wasn't clicking that much, so he took advantage of it. The ball just stayed in the middle and he hit it out." "I thought John did a good job," Riggleman said. "We didn't help him much out there. He went deep into the ballgame, saved our bullpen. The pitch to Lee might be the only one he'd like to have over again. Everything else he did he was pretty satisfied with." Lannan impressed the Astros. "The way they were pitching, that guy was moving the ball pretty good and keeping us off-balance," Lee said. "To be honest, I didn't know if two runs was going to do it." Desmond made two errors on one play in the sixth. First baseman Adam Dunn fielded a grounder and threw to Desmond for a force play at second. But Desmond missed the bag. He then threw wildly back to first, allowing Hunter Pence to score for a 3-1 Houston lead. "You've got to touch the base for the guy to be out," Desmond said. "Oh yeah, [I missed it]." Desmond bobbled a grounder by Lance Berkman with one out in the seventh. Two batters later Pence tripled to center, scoring two unearned runs for a 5-1 edge. "Berkman doesn't really run that well," Desmond said. "I figured if I stayed back on it, I'd still be able to turn the double play. It kind of took a bad hop on me. Ate me up a little bit. I trust myself as a player. Tomorrow will be a new day, bounce back and everything will be fine." Lannan didn't hold the errors against Desmond.
"It happens," Lannan said of Desmond's errors. "He saves me a lot of runs. It was a tough play [on the third error], and he got caught in between. He knew he had to rush."Riggleman defended Desmond. "I assumed he was out [at second base], but Desi said he missed the base and the umpire saw it," Riggleman said. "He made the right call. I don't know how far off he was. "Desmond is a young shortstop. We assume there's going to be errors made. If you go back and look at Ozzie Smith and [Omar] Vizquel, they probably made a lot of errors their first year. We'll take it. He goes left and right as good or better than anyone in baseball. If some errors come along with it, for the time being we'll put up with that." Reliever Tyler Walker replaced Lannan after Desmond's third error and gave up the two-run triple to Pence. "I made one bad pitch, and Pence made me pay for it," Walker said. "He's too good a hitter to make that mistake to."
Gene Duffey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.