09/02/09 8:52 PM ET
Nationals drop sixth straight game
Lannan chased in fifth as offense is unable to plate a run
By Tim Powers / Special to MLB.com
John Lannan held the San Diego offense in check through four scoreless innings, but a five-run fifth spelled the end of Lannan's day and gave the Padres the cushion they would need to complete the three-game sweep.
Lannan got two quick outs to start the fifth, but Everth Cabrera and David Eckstein reach base with ground-ball singles before Adrian Gonzalez hit a line drive that tailed away from left-fielder Wille Harris and landed just beyond his reach, scoring two runs. Chase Headley's two-run double was the other big blow in the frame that added to the San Diego lead.
"That's the way the game goes," Lannan said. "It has happened to me before. You've just got to tip your hat, they made things happen in the fifth. I battled today, I felt pretty good. It's just the way it went today."
Interim manager Jim Riggleman praised Lannan's effort despite the big inning.
"[Lannan] was a lot better than the line scores are going to say," Riggleman said. "If Willie catches that ball, and I know it was a tough play, if we catch that ball, we've got a bunch of zeroes on the board and it doesn't get us into trouble right there. You look for effort, and we got a good effort."
Lannan's counterpart, Padres starter Kevin Correia, shut the Nationals' bats down through 7 2/3 innings. Washington managed an early scoring chance against Correia in the first, when Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman strung together consecutive two-out singles. Both runners were stranded when Pete Orr followed with a groundout that started a stretch of 19 straight batters retired by Correia.
"I think it was [Correia]," Riggleman said of his team's struggles. "We haven't been scoring runs period, no matter what the lineup has been here in the last two cities we've been to. You've got to give [Correia] credit. He made the necessary pitches. We've just got to do better than that. It's not acceptable to go to two cities and not be able to scratch out a win or two. It's just unacceptable, and we've got to do better."
The singles by Dunn and Zimmerman accounted for Washington's only two hits until the eighth, when Harris singled to load the bases and chase Correia from the game. Edward Mujica entered and induced a popout from Alberto Gonzalez that ended the scoring opportunity for the Nationals, who have pushed across just three runs in their past 38 innings.
"At some point you've just got to say, 'You know, we're not going to get beaten,'" Riggleman added. "You've just got to will yourself to a win and not accept it. Sometimes we think of down the road and we've got a lot of parts for the future, but when you're playing tonight and people paid to get into that ballgame, your competitive juices have got to be flowing and you've got to win tonight. Never mind next year, you've got to win now."
Saul Rivera and Jorge Sosa also surrendered a run apiece as San Diego padded its advantage.
An off-day on Thursday comes at a welcome time for a team fighting to get through the season's final full month and end on a positive note.
Zimmerman attributed credit to Correia, but acknowledged the day off and return to Washington could be beneficial.
"[Correia] had four or five pitches and threw them all for strikes and mixed them up," Zimmerman said. "They get paid to get people out, too. Sometimes they do better, and sometimes we do better. The off-day [Thursday] comes at a good time. We'll go back home and get ready to go."
Lannan said bluntly that the end of the road trip means the Nationals now have to concentrate on upcoming division opponents Florida and Philadelphia.
"This road trip was pretty brutal," Lannan said. "We're just going to go home and start again. It's been a long one and, we'll take [Thursday] off and then get right back at it. We've got some good teams coming in, so we're really going to have to focus and bear down."
While a six-game losing streak is "brutal," a return home and a small break is what the team will use to try to snap the skid when they face the Marlins on Friday.
Tim Powers is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.