Eighth inning dooms Nats in loss

Eighth inning dooms Nats in loss

WASHINGTON -- After getting hit hard against the Diamondbacks last Sunday, Nationals right-hander Shawn Hill decided he was going to have a bullpen session on Tuesday. He hasn't been able to have one for a while because of his ailing right forearm and elbow.

The purpose for the session was to fix some mechanical issues and start throwing his breaking balls for strikes. The session paid off for Hill, as he gave up two runs in 7 1/3 innings on Saturday night. However, the Nationals were blanked by the Giants, 6-0, at Nationals Park. It marked the ninth time that Washington was shut out this season.

At one point during the game, Hill found himself in a pitchers' duel with Giants left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, who ended up winning the battle. Hill was able to throw his breaking balls for strikes and retired 15 consecutive batters at one point in the game. The bullpen session was the reason that Hill was able to have success against the Giants.

"[The bullpen session] helped a lot, I think," Hill said. "Just being able to work on the delivery and get myself in a better position. It helps with the offspeed stuff more than anything. The fastball control was a little bit better, too. If I can continue to throw [a bullpen session], I will get a little bit better and repeat my delivery."

Said manager Manny Acta about Hill's outing, "The shame of it was that we couldn't win the ballgame, but it doesn't go unnoticed how well he pitched. He threw the ball very well. He did what we expected. He gave us a chance to win. He put seven zeros on the board. He was able to throw his breaking ball over the plate. We just couldn't get anything going offensively."

Hill was able to have the good start despite the fact it was hot at Nationals Park. It was 86 degrees at game time. He admitted he ran out of gas by the fourth inning, but he started to cool off when he went into the tunnel and started drinking water between innings.

"You just try to catch your breath. I ducked down in the tunnel, got the ammonia towel and drank as much water as I could," Hill said.

The game was scoreless when the Giants scored six runs in the top of the eighth inning. Hill was able to get leadoff hitter Fred Lewis for the first out of the inning, but Hill gave up consecutive hits to Jose Castillo and Randy Winn.

Hill was taken out of the game in favor of Luis Ayala and disaster struck. Ayala didn't get the second out until five batters later. The first batter he faced, Bengie Molina, drove in the first run of the game with a single.

After Ray Durham walked, Rich Aurilia singled to center to score Winn. John Bowker was the next hitter and had the biggest blow of the game. On a 1-0 pitch, Bowker hit the ball over the right-center-field wall for a grand slam.

According to Acta, Ayala abandoned his power sinker and threw his second and third best pitches.

"He got away from his best pitch. He was beat on sliders and changeups. He just had a very rough night," Acta said

Washington was no match for Sanchez, who lasted seven innings and gave up four hits. The Nationals only had a runner in scoring position once against him and that occurred in the fourth inning.

Was Sanchez that good or is the Nationals' offense that bad?

"Everybody knows we have been struggling offensively, but Sanchez is good," Acta said. "Obviously, when you are struggling offensively and you are facing good pitching, you run into nights like this."

Washington is now hitting .231 for the season. Second baseman Felipe Lopez believes that the team is trying too hard.

"We like to compete and win," he said. "You put a little extra pressure on yourself to try to do good, sometimes, it's not the best idea."

Another great pitching performance wasted because of the lack of hitting.

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