Miscues cost Nats in loss to Mets

Miscues cost Nats in loss to Mets

NEW YORK -- The Nationals arguably played their worst game under manager Manny Acta on Saturday afternoon at Citi Field. Lack of pitching and defense were the reasons the team lost to the Mets, 8-2.

Washington dropped its record to 3-13.

The Nationals were in trouble from the start. Right-hander Daniel Cabrera retired the first two batters he faced. Then the problems started.

After Carlos Beltran singled and Carlos Delgado walked, David Wright hit what looked like a routine fly ball to center fielder Elijah Dukes. But Dukes, who had his sunglasses on the top of his head, lost the ball in the sun as it dropped in for a two-base error, which allowed two runs to score.

Uncharacteristically, Acta declined to say what happened to Dukes on the play. Asked if he lost it in the sun, Acta said: "Go ask him. He's out there. I can answer questions [regarding] me and my team. I'm not going to be answering everybody's questions."

Told that Dukes may not talk to the media, Acta replied, "That's not my problem. I'm answering every question that you asked me."

When something does go wrong -- on or off the field -- Dukes does not talk to reporters and sometimes blames the media for his problems. Saturday was no different. After talking to a Nationals representative, Dukes did not want to talk after the game.

"This is not the time to come and ask me [something] like that," Dukes said.

After the Dukes error, Wright then came in on a single by Ryan Church.

By the time he left the game in the third inning, Cabrera threw 86 pitches and the Mets had a 5-0 lead.

"He didn't throw enough strikes to a ballclub like that," Acta said. "It's such a good lineup with speed. If you put guys on, the way we are playing defense, it's really going to cost you."

Cabrera (0-2) said he was not rattled by Dukes' error. Cabrera felt he should have been able to give the Nationals a quality start.

"I was trying to stay focused, that's part of the game," Cabrera said. "I was trying to pick the other people up. It looked a little harder after that. I pitched very badly. ... I'll see some video tomorrow, and hopefully, I can figure it out."

The Nationals made it a 5-2 game off right-hander Mike Pelfrey (2-0) in the sixth inning, but the Mets (8-9) would answer back in the bottom of the inning off Jason Bergmann. On a steal attempt by Beltran, Daniel Murphy scored on an error by catcher Wil Nieves. Church then drove in two more runs with a single for a six-run cushion.

Told that the team lacked fire, Nationals outfielder Adam Dunn disagreed. He felt the effort was there, but the team was making too many mistakes.

"I would say the plays we are not making are not lack-of-effort plays," Dunn said. "They are not because of lack of fire like you say. I think everyone out there is playing hard. We are making mistakes that a big league team should not make. We are making them, and that is what is costing us games.

"We have to find a way to turn it around. I don't know what that is. We have to find a way."

The surprising part about the Nationals is that they have made 18 errors and rank last in defense. It's not that they have a group of players who can't field their position. Ryan Zimmerman and Anderson Hernandez are Gold Glove-caliber players.

"I'm pretty surprised," Zimmerman said. "The defense is like hitting, I guess. It's kind of contagious. When things go bad, they go bad. I think a lot of them will be fine, but it's frustrating."

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