Nats' road woes continue in loss to Braves

Nats' road woes continue in loss to Braves

ATLANTA -- After a 4-1 road loss on Wednesday pushed their record in June to 8-19, the Nationals can take solace in an advantage provided by the schedule.

They start July with a 10-game homestand. Washington is 20-16 at home, compared to 14-29 away from Nationals Park.

"Things are going to change around," catcher Ivan Rodriguez said. "We play good ball at home."

But returning home may not be enough, despite the team's solid record there.

"We need something," first baseman Adam Dunn said. "We're not playing up to our capabilities, and I don't know why that is. It's not for a lack of effort, a lack of talent, any of that. I don't know."

The Nationals completed a 1-5 trip with their 22nd loss in the past 27 road games, falling to the Braves in the series finale at Turner Field.

"We're just not hitting," Dunn said. "We're not producing offensively."

Jair Jurrjens (1-3) pitched into the sixth for the Braves in his first start since injuring his hamstring on April 29. He struck out six in the first four innings before tiring.

"His velocity was up, and he was really sharp, for it being his first start back up in the big leagues in a couple months," Dunn said.

"He had a little extra explosion at the end," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said of Jurrjens. "It was hard to catch up to it, and he has the ability to make you swing at a high fastball."

The Nationals ended up topping the Braves in hits (eight to seven), but they didn't get any at clutch times.

Held to a pair of wasted doubles through four innings, the Nationals loaded the bases in both the fifth and six innings. They could score only one run, however, when Rodriguez grounded into a double play after Peter Moylan relieved Jurrjens in the sixth.

Rodriguez swung at the first pitch, although Moylan has struggled with his control lately.

"It was a strike and I hit it hard," Rodriguez said. "I think it was a great pitch to hit. With guys like that who throw sidearm, they are very difficult to hit the ball. Sometimes, you have to jump early."

Dunn went halfway home but didn't try to score from third base on a wild pitch by Moylan, and Alberto Gonzalez struck out to end the threat with the Nationals down by two runs.

The Nationals' J.D. Martin (0-4) needed 37 pitches to make it through the first inning, giving up a run. He allowed doubles to Martin Prado and Brian McCann, followed by two walks, but Martin forced Yunel Escobar to pop up with the bases loaded, ending the inning.

"I was all over the plate," Martin said.

The Braves made it 3-0 in the fourth inning on three singles and a sacrifice fly by Prado. Jurrjens helped himself by faking a bunt and slapping a line drive over the head of third baseman Ryan Zimmerman for an RBI.

"I was trying to go low and away," Martin said. "Instead, I gave him something to get around on."

Pulled in on the infield grass, Zimmerman was nearly hit in the head by the line drive.

"Basically, the difference in the game was Jurrjens' fake bunt and hit," Riggleman said. "That was huge. It was good baseball on their part."

The Nationals managed only two more baserunners after the sixth, and another double play canceled out one of them. Braves closer Billy Wagner struck out three batters in a row after Rodriguez's leadoff hit in the ninth, for his 16th save.

After starting the season 9-7 away from home, the Nationals have now lost nine consecutive road series. A big reason for that is the 30 unearned runs they've allowed during the stretch. But Washington, last in the National League in fielding, hasn't committed errors in back-to-back games, and Josh Willingham made a nice catch in left field during the finale.

"We've got to try to find something positive," Riggleman said. "I think we've played a little cleaner lately. When we do that, we realize that we are closer to the top teams in the division than we are further away."

Now the Nationals get 10 games in a row at home, beginning with a four-game series against the second-place Mets starting on Thursday night.

"June is behind us and we're going home," Riggleman said. "Let's play some good baseball before the All-Star break and start feeling better about ourselves."

Guy Curtright is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.