Perez solid, but Nats shut out at Shea

Perez solid, but Nats shut out at Shea

WASHINGTON -- General manager Jim Bowden did everything he could to improve the Nationals' offense this year, acquiring outfielders Lastings Milledge and Elijah Dukes and catcher Paul Lo Duca.

Add Ryan Zimmerman, Nick Johnson, Austin Kearns and Wily Mo Pena into the mix, and one may think that the Nationals would score a lot of runs.

Think again.

Lo Duca and Dukes are injured, and the rest of the offense is sputtering. It showed on Tuesday night, as the Nationals were blanked by the Mets, 6-0, at Shea Stadium. It marked the third time Washington was shut out this season.

It was a day that the entire Nationals team wore No. 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson, but Washington didn't show nearly as much excitement on the field as Robinson did during his illustrious career with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The offense has been stagnant, as it was for much of last season. The Nationals are currently last in the National League in batting average (.231) and near the bottom in runs scored (51). Those categories were supposed to improve with the new acquisitions in place.

"We continue to struggle with guys in scoring position," manager Manny Acta said. "You have to score to win."

The Nationals had their chances to score against winning pitcher Mike Pelfrey (2-0), who pitched seven innings and gave up five hits. In the third inning, with the Mets ahead, 2-0, Washington had the bases loaded and one out. But Zimmerman popped up to second baseman Luis Castillo and Johnson ended the inning striking out on a fastball.

"We are not hitting our pitches," Acta said. "I think the pitch to Zim was a pretty good pitch to hit; he just didn't hit it well."

Said Zimmerman: "I got a good pitch to hit with the bases loaded. I knew he was going to try to get ahead. I hit it straight up in the air."

Being too aggressive proved to be costly for the Nationals. After Milledge doubled with one out in the first inning, he tried to steal third with Zimmerman at the plate, but was thrown out by Mets catcher Brian Schneider.

"At least [Milledge] didn't do it so early in the count," Acta said. "He gave Zimmerman about four pitches before he tried to steal. I'd rather he be aggressive than non-aggressive. Next time, if we don't think it's the right call, we'll just put the stop sign on him."

After the game, Zimmerman, who loves to look at the glass half-full, was baffled that the Nationals' offense hasn't thrived.

"We are a lot better than what we are showing," Zimmerman said. "It's going to take one or two big hits and I think we'll start rolling, but I think it's disappointing."


"I know hitting can be contagious at times. Right now, nobody is really hitting. We are having quick innings. The worst thing you can do is start pressing at this point. We have to do something."
-- Johnny Estrada

It doesn't help that two of the position players in Tuesday's game are still in Spring Training mode. Both Pena and catcher Johnny Estrada started the season on the disabled list, and neither were able to play enough rehab games before rushing back to the big leagues.

Pena had a hard time getting the ball out of the infield on Tuesday and had problems in the outfield.

"I've only been here a short time, but personally, I don't feel great at the plate," said Estrada, who played with the Brewers last year. "This is like Spring Training for me. I haven't played. And I know Wily Mo has to feel the same way. He hasn't played any games. His timing is off, and it takes a while.

"I know hitting can be contagious at times. Right now, nobody is really hitting. We are having quick innings. The worst thing you can do is start pressing at this point. We have to do something."

Left-hander Odalis Perez had another strong outing, but it wasn't good enough. Perez pitched six innings, giving up two runs on six hits.

His only blemish came in the first inning. With Ryan Church on first, David Wright hit a 1-1 pitch to deep left field. It looked like Pena had a bead on the ball, but he didn't jump high enough, and the ball went over the fence for a two-run homer.

"[Perez] made a mistake on David and paid for it," Acta said, "but other than that, he gave us a chance to win -- six innings, two runs. Just a very good outing for us."

Perez has given the Nationals three good outings thus far, but doesn't have any wins to show for it. He refuses to believe that he playing for a bad team.

"No one is perfect," Perez said. "We are struggling right now, and that's going to change. We have great talent. [The struggles] will not be forever."

Wright added another run in the bottom of the seventh inning. With reliever Luis Ayala on the mound, Wright doubled under the glove of third baseman Zimmerman to score Jose Reyes. The run was charged to Ray King. Wright then scored on a single by Carlos Beltran.

Wright capped the scoring with a two-run double off Joel Hanrahan in the eighth inning. The third baseman finished with five RBIs.

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