Instant analysis: Nats blanked by Brewers

Instant analysis: Nats blanked by Brewers
July 2, 2013, 10:15 pm
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Strasburg not getting any run support

Strasburg not getting any run support

Game in a nutshell: Yes Yogi, it's déjà vu all over again. Stephen Strasburg dominated in a game the Nationals' offense went bust. Even worse, Drew Storen returned to his late game struggles and Washington returned to the loss column after two straight high-scoring wins. Of course, because the bats went back to their scuffling form after scoring 23 runs on 26 hits in the previous two games, there was no room for error. Strasburg walked that tight rope like a Wallenda, shutting out the Brewers over seven innings on three hits with eight strikeouts before being removed for a pinch hitter. Meanwhile, Storen (2-2), who has turned in primarily solid performances over the last month, was wobbly from the start, surrendering a leadoff single to open the eighth, followed by a stolen base and a walk. Then came Juan Francisco's two-run double, then came Martin Maldonado's one-out RBI double, then came Jeff Bianchi's run-scoring single. Then came the boos and plenty of them from the crowd of 24, 897 that hoped to see the Nationals (42-41) moved three games above .500 for the first time since May 18. Instead they witness Washington shutout for the ninth time this season.

Hitting lowlight: After busting out offensively in two wins including the series opener against Milwaukee, the Nationals reverted to their season-long punchless form, at least for one night. After picking up one hit and each of the first three innings, the last one coming on Ryan Zimmerman's two-out single, Washington went without a hit until Anthony Rendon's one-out base knock in the seventh. The Nationals lineup had no answer for Brewers starter Wily Peralta, who stymied Washington until he left with one out in the sixth inning because left hamstring strain. Only twice did the Nationals put a runner into scoring position against Peralta, including Denard Span standing 90 feet from home with two out in the first. Ian Desmond's grounder stranded two runners in the opening frame while Span's fly ball left one on in the second. The Nationals bats showed life in the final two innings with four hits including two opening the ninth against Milwaukee closer Francisco Rodriquez. That is until Kurt Suzuki struck out looking, Roger Bernadina went down swinging and Span popped to short. Yes, we've seen this before. Even worse, this scoreless effort took three hours and 23 minutes to complete.

Pitching highlight: What else can be said about Strasburg other than he deserves better. He entered the game the least supported starter in baseball and the Nationals offense surely kept that designation intact. Strasburg did match his season-high with four walks, but threw 105 pitches and once again armed the Nationals with a potential winning scenario, yet ended receiving his second straight no-decision. In four starts since returning from the disabled list on June 16 following a lower lat strain, Strasburg has surrendered four earned runs and 15 hits over 26 innings. He has one win to show for it in part because the Nationals have scored three runs in that span. Heck, only one of Milwaukee's three hits against him left the infield. Strasburg's biggest stress came in the sixth as the Brewers loaded the bases with one out. With a runner on first, Zimmerman fielded Rickie Weeks's potential double play grounder, but the ball slipped out of the third baseman's hand on the attempted throw. After walking cleanup hitter Aramis Ramirez and a visit from pitching coach Steve McCatty, Strasburg deftly worked out of the jam by striking out Francisco looking and Sean Halton swinging. Both punch outs came on off-speed pitches, as did his other eight strikeouts. The Brewers also put two runners on base in the fourth with one out following a single and walk. Strasburg ended the threat by inducing Sean Halton into a groundball double play. He ended the outing once again with an undeserved no-decision.

Key stat: Since May 16, Strasburg has a 1.28 ERA in 56 innings over nine starts. In that stretch he's only eked out a 3-1 record thanks to minimal run support.

Up next: Ross Detwiler (2-6, 4.13) takes the mound for the third game of this four-game series. The lefty was deemed questionable for this start as he developed a stiff back after pitching five innings in his last start on Friday. Right-hander Kyle Lohse (3-6, 3.63) gets the nod for the Brewers at 6:05 p.m.