SAN DIEGO -- A sputtering Washington offense reared its head again, thanks in part to some fine defensive plays by San Diego outfielders, and the Nationals dropped their fifth straight game, 4-1, to the Padres on Tuesday night at PETCO Park. J.D. Martin surrendered three runs -- two earned -- in his ninth big league start, and the Nationals' offense provided little support as the team scored just a single run for the third consecutive game. While the hardest hit ball the Nationals managed all night -- Josh Bard's home run in the seventh -- cleared the wall, a few well-struck line drives, including two off the bat of Ryan Zimmerman, were snared on diving plays by center fielder Tony Gwynn and Will Venable in right field.
"We're either hitting, or we're not, and right now, we're not hitting," interim manager Jim Riggleman said. "You've got to find another way to win a ballgame. Part of it is that they played really well. They made plays all over the field again tonight. They robbed our guys of hits all night and stopped rallies." Both times Zimmerman fell victim, a runner was stranded. In the sixth, Alberto Gonzalez singled in front of Zimmerman's first line drive, on which Venable dove to his right to make an impressive play. In the eighth, Justin Maxwell earned a one-out walk and moved to second on Gonzalez's groundout before Zimmerman hit a ball to center that Gwynn slid to catch, ending the inning and keeping the speedy Maxwell from crossing the plate. "They were making good catches," Zimmerman said. "It's part of baseball. It's no reason to get upset. You've just got to stay with what you're doing. Obviously, a bunch of us are hitting the ball well, just kind of at people. You can't panic. You can't change anything. You just keep working hard and going out there and playing hard every day." Martin (3-4) held San Diego to two runs over six innings but served up a solo home run to the first batter of the seventh, pinch-hitter Oscar Salazar, that chased the 26-year-old right-hander from the game. He allowed five hits and struck out a career-high five while walking two batters. "He pitched fine," Riggleman said. "He did a good job and gave us a chance to win. He had a good curveball tonight. There were lapses in concentration maybe, but overall he did a good job." Pitching in front of a congregation of family and friends from the small town of Ridgecrest, Calif., which is about a four-hour drive from San Diego, Martin also made a costly error on a bunt by Everth Cabrera that later allowed the San Diego speedster to score his team's second run. "It could've gone better," Martin said. "Physically, I felt good. I was throwing strikes and everything. I did a couple of things that I messed up that were costly. I spun that cutter to Salazar that cost a home run, and the error on the bunt they ended up scoring a run. So, a couple of things that could've gone different and it could've been a different ballgame." Padres lefty Clayton Richard (4-1) kept Washington off the scoreboard until the seventh, when Bard's homer halved the deficit to 2-1. San Diego answered with Salazar's homer in the next frame and tacked on an insurance run in the eighth on a Drew Macias pinch-hit single that scored Nick Hundley. "We've faced some good pitching," Zimmerman said. "I think we've hit some balls hard, too, and they're making good plays. It's just one of those times where it seems like everything we hit gets caught. You've got to give their guys credit, too. They've got some good arms here. It's tough, but you've got to keep battling through it." Washington cost itself in the seventh when Elijah Dukes was picked off by Richard just before Bard hit his fourth long ball of the season. Riggleman focused more on the misplay by Dukes. "You never know how somebody is going to pitch in a different situation, and you don't know that you're going to get that home run if we weren't [picked off]," Riggleman said. "But, you can't get [picked off] either way. It's a tie game. The issue is getting [picked off], it's not that we hit a home run afterward." The Nationals had just three hits besides the Bard homer. Josh Willingham struggled in his four at-bats, going down on strikes each time.
Tim Powers is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.