Early deficit too much for Nats to overcome

Early deficit too much for Nats to overcome

CINCINNATI -- Right-hander J.D. Martin wasn't at his best, and it proved costly as the Nationals lost to the Reds, 7-2, at Great American Ball Park on Monday night.

After cruising through the first inning, Martin had serious problems throwing strikes an inning later, walking three and allowing four runs. It also didn't help that shoddy defense played a role in helping the Reds take the lead that inning.

With the bases loaded, Drew Stubbs hit a ball that dropped in front of right fielder Willie Harris for a hit. Jonny Gomes scored without a problem, however, Jay Bruce scored the second run after Harris threw the ball back to the right side of the infield where no one -- not second baseman Cristian Guzman nor first base Adam Dunn -- was covering. Stubbs was credited with a double and two RBIs on the play.

"The ball went past Guzzie and Dunn. It was just a bad throw in there," Harris said. "I was expecting the cutoff man to be in a certain spot. It was just a bad throw. It was my fault."

Two batters later, the bases were reloaded, when right-hander Johnny Cueto singled past Guzman, allowing two more runs to score.

Although he would last 5 1/3 innings, Martin felt nothing was working on the mound for him.

"I started missing pitches, leaving balls up and walking guys," Martin said. "I think I had three walks in the inning. It really comes down to throwing strikes. I wasn't throwing strikes today. You walk a couple of guys in an inning, it's hard to get out of it, especially if you are not locating.

"I really didn't feel I had much of anything today. I had some good pitches, but for the most part, I was missing with everything."

But Washington would make it close in the top of the third off Cueto. Nyjer Morgan hit a sacrifice fly that scored Harris. The run ended the club's 23-inning scoreless streak. Ian Desmond then came home on a single by Guzman.

In the sixth, it looked like the Nats had made it a one-run game, but the run was taken away on umpire's interference. With runners on first and second and two outs, Ivan Rodriguez hit the ball past Cueto and it struck second-base umpire Gary Cederstrom for a single. Ryan Zimmerman scored easily, but he was called back. It was ruled that second baseman Brandon Phillips would have made the putout on Rodriguez.

Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said the umpires made the right call.

"Once it hit the umpire, it's dead," Riggleman said. "I didn't know it hit the umpire. I didn't know what it hit. I didn't know if it hit the rubber. I really lost sight of it there. I didn't realize it hit him. If it hits him and he is in the outfield, it's in play. If it hits him in the infield in front of the defenders, it's a dead ball."

With the bases loaded, Harris flied out to end the inning.

Cueto lasted six innings and allowed two runs on four hits. Reds manager Dusty Baker felt that Cueto was at his best after a 42-minute rain delay, which occurred after the third inning.

"[The fourth inning] was probably the most effective inning," Baker said. "Their guy came out sharp, too. That shows you what they were doing in between that rain delay and fortunately for us, that rain delay wasn't any longer than it was. Kind of cooled things off and didn't cool Johnny off. It's great to see him get his ninth victory and hopefully next time he'll be in double digits and keep on rolling."

Dating back to Saturday's game against the Marlins, the Nationals have scored two runs, which has Dunn baffled. With Dunn, Zimmerman, Josh Willingham and Morgan in the lineup, the Nats were expected to score a lot of runs this season, but that hasn't been the case. Entering Tuesday's action, Washington -- which has lost three straight and dropped to 40-53 -- ranks 26th in runs scored.

"We do have a great lineup. We just can't get everyone hot at the same time," Dunn said. "It seems like we haven't had two guys hot at the same time. If Guzzie is hot, then me and Zim aren't hot. And then if Zim is hot, we are not. It's bad timing, really. I don't know how else to put it."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.