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Nats' bats slowed by D-backs' pitching

Nats' bats slowed by D-backs' pitching

WASHINGTON -- Right-hander Brandon Webb proved to be too much for the Nationals, who were blanked by the Diamondbacks, 2-0, at Nationals Park on Tuesday night.

The Nationals have lost six straight games and dropped their record to a Major League-worst 34-57. It also marked the 11th time they were shut out this year.

On May 31, Webb pitched a complete-game shutout against the Nationals in Arizona. Starting with the first inning, it was easy to tell it would be Webb's night. He threw just seven pitches to complete that frame. When Washington did have runners in scoring position, it was usually with two outs.

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This time, the Nationals had the former Cy Young Award winner on ropes. They had runners in scoring position three times, but couldn't do anything to bring the runners home. The best opportunity came in the second inning.

Washington had runners on first and second and no outs, but Jesus Flores hit into a force play to put runners on first and third, Wily Mo Pena struck out and Roger Bernadina grounded out to end the inning. The Nationals ended leaving eight men on base during the game.

"We just couldn't get it done. Twice, we had runners on third with less than two outs and ended up striking out," manager Manny Acta said. "I didn't even think Webb had his best stuff tonight. He left a lot of pitches up in the zone. When he had to, he made pitches and we weren't patient enough. We chased pitches out of the zone in those situations."

Tuesday's game was another example of how the Nats' offense is struggling. It doesn't help that Elijah Dukes, Ryan Zimmerman and Nick Johnson are out of the lineup with injuries. How do the Nationals get better with the bats? Maybe Austin Kearns said it best.

"Keep grinding. That's the only thing you can do. You have to keep your nose on the grind and keep on battling. That's the only way I know how to do it," Kearns said.

The Nationals received solid relief pitching from right-handers Steven Shell, Saul Rivera and Joel Hanrahan after Odalis Perez was ejected by home-plate umpire Angel Hernandez in the third inning for arguing his second balk call.

According to the left-hander, Hernandez said that Perez threw to first base to pick off Chris Young while his leg went toward home plate.

After the call was made, Perez was visibly upset and used profanity toward Hernandez. He walked toward Hernandez and had to be restrained by Acta. As he walked toward the dugout, Perez was still yelling and had to be restrained this time by pitching coach Randy St. Claire.

Perez said Hernandez has a grudge against him and claimed that the umpire has called at least four balks against him during his career.

"That's the third or fourth time he called a balk on me," Perez said. "I lost the game twice. It's like he's got something personal against me. And I hate that. I'm a professional. I want to be there as long as I can because I don't want to see my teammates in the bullpen to go out there and throw so many pitches or throw so many innings. I hate that.

"I know I'm going to get fined, but I don't care. I want to protect myself and protect my teammates, too, because he's been [bad] the whole year. ... I've been doing the same move the entire year. So why does he have to call it twice in the same inning? For them -- to score a run against me -- then I lost the game, he might be happy now."

Through a spokesperson, Hernandez was not available for comment.

It was the first balk on Perez that ended up hurting the Nationals in the third inning. After Chris Burke reached base on an error, Hernandez called a balk on Perez to put Burke on second. Two batters later, Young singled to center to drive in Burke.

Once Perez left the game, Shell, Rivera and Hanrahan pitched a combined 6 1/3 innings without giving up an earned run. Fortunately, Perez's ejection did not cause the bullpen to be too spent.

"On the positive side, it's one of the few times, these guys have gone two innings with a very low pitch count," Acta said. "We are fine for tomorrow."

In the sixth, with Rivera on the mound, Robby Hammock singled to center, but the ball went past Bernadina to allow Mark Reynolds to score all the way from first.

"I went after the ball to try and catch it and the ball skipped. The ball went past me," Bernadina said.

The Nationals are not getting any breaks and it seems to be getting worse.

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

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