Nationals silent against Dodgers

Nationals silent against Dodgers

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals were on such a high after going 5-2 on their recent road trip. For an offense that has been sputtering for most of the season, the Nationals bats were alive during the trip as they hit .310.

But since returning to Robert F. Kennedy Stadium on Tuesday, Washington's offense has been non-existent. On Wednesday night, the Nationals were blanked again by the Dodgers, this time by a score of 5-0 in front of 22,360.

The Nationals have lost two consecutive games, dropping their record to 21-32.

The last time the Nationals scored was in the eighth inning against the Cardinals on Sunday afternoon. Since then, Washington has collected a combined nine hits. Brad Penny dominated the Nationals on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Washington had no answers for right-hander Derek Lowe, who pitched seven shutout innings. Like Penny's changeup, curveball and split, Lowe's sinker was dominating. Lowe had 11 groundball outs in the game.

"It was a good pitching effort by Lowe," manager Manny Acta said. "He is a good pitcher in a good pitcher's park. Our offense is not the best in the league. It was a tough night for us. We have to play almost perfect to beat a guy like that and we didn't, obviously.

"When that sinker is on, there is not much you can do. You are just going to beat it on the ground the whole night like we did."

Outfielder Ryan Church was baffled as to why the Nationals offense had such a letdown the last two nights, but acknowledged that the Nationals knew they were facing better pitching during the homestand.

"It's not frustrating because we know what we are capable of doing, but it goes to show you what's out there on the mound. They shut us out the last two nights," Church said. "We have to find a way to win games, whether it be taking walks here and there, bunting for base hits, playing small ball. We have to get something going, especially against these guys."

Nationals left-hander Mike Bacsik was solid. He pitched six innings and gave up four runs -- two earned -- on six hits. Bacsik knew early in the game that he had to be perfect on the mound because he was watching Lowe dominate the game.

"Derek Lowe threw the ball great. Obviously, we didn't score any runs. I needed to keep the game at zero," Bacsik said. "It's human nature to know that the other team is throwing ball well. I have to keep this within reach."

But not getting Lowe out at the plate and an error by shortstop Cristian Guzman ended up hurting Bacsik.

The game was scoreless until Los Angeles scored two runs in the fifth inning. Andre Ethier drove in the first run with a double. With two outs, and Ethier still on second, Bacsik had a chance to put Lowe away. However, Lowe walked on fives pitches, allowing Rafael Furcal to come to the plate. On a 2-0 pitch, Furcal singled to right field to drive in Ethier.

"I should be been more aggressive with Lowe," Bacsik said. "I was behind 3-0. After two balls, I really tried to guide the ball to the plate instead of throwing the ball. It led to the walk, which led to Furcal, a much better hitter, having a chance to get an RBI. He did his job."

In the next inning, with one out, Dodgers second baseman Jeff Kent reached first on an error by Guzman. After Luis Gonzalez flied out for the second out of the inning, Russell Martin hit a two-run home run to make it a 4-0 game. Bacsik said he should have thrown a changeup instead of a curveball to Martin.

"Martin hit a good pitch and put the game out of reach," Bacsik said. "I tried to backdoor it. It was a pretty good pitch. It was right where we wanted to throw it for a strike to get ahead, 1-2. To put a good swing on it, I have to give him a lot of credit."

Although he took the loss, Bacsik had his third consecutive solid start and is proving that his 2006 season in which he went 11-0 with a 2.79 ERA for Triple-A Tucson was not a fluke.

"I have confidence in myself. I've had it the whole time," Bacsik said. "Being in the Minor Leagues, you look at the transactions and see some guys go up and you think, 'Gosh, you can do better than he can.' Obviously, my stuff isn't going to light up the radar gun or make general managers think I'm a can't-miss guy. So I have to really locate the ball. For the most part, I did tonight."

The last run of Wednesday's game was scored in the seventh inning when Lowe came in to score on an infield single by Nomar Garciaparra. Reliever Ray King was charged with the run.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.