Ryan Zimmerman, who went 0 for 4 with four Ks in his return to the lineup? "He's awfully rusty," Davey Johnson told reporters after tonight's game, "But he'll be fine." Ross Detwiler, who threw 84 pitches in 5.0 IP in which he gave up six hits, two walks and three runs on two home runs? "To me he had a little command problem," Johnson said, "He threw a lot of pitches in a short time, but he was getting ball up. But, he kept us in the ballgame."
The Washington Nationals' offense as a whole, which has scored two runs or less in 10 of the last 13 games while going 5-8 over that stretch? "Our offense seems to be sputtering," the Nationals' 70-year-old skipper said after tonight's 3-1 loss to the Pirates in Pittsburgh's PNC Park. "We just can't get nothing going and that's our problem right now."
Pirates' starter A.J. Burnett recorded nine strikeouts in seven innings. Mark Melancon struck out two in the eighth. Closer Jason Grilli got three backwards Ks in the ninth for 14 total strikeouts from the Nationals' hitters on the night, seven of them looking. As for what Burnett was doing to dominate his batters, Davey Johnson said, "We're not hitting balls early in the count. Obviously he had a fastball that was coming back over the plate and guys were giving up on fastballs away. He was pitching left-handers in. We've got to make adjustments. We've got a lot better hitters than we're showing."
The strikeouts, Johnson said, have, "... been kind of an issue with us. We've got good hitters, but we are striking out more than we should and I don't know if it's not being aggressive early enough in the count. [Ian Desmond] is aggressive early in the count, and he's been striking out a bunch, but we're not making them throw it over the plate. We're trying to make too much happen and that can happen."
Ian Desmond's take on the strikeouts? "Sometimes you swing and miss," Desmond said, "Sometimes you swing and hit. Today was one of the swing and miss days." Desmond chalked it up to Burnett having a strong night on the mound. "Tip your cap to that guy, he pitched a good game," the Nats' shortstop said, "I didn't see us doing anything wrong, [it] was more so what he was doing right."
The Nationals' manager expressed some frustration, and let his team know that it's time to get the offense going. "Eventually -- I think we're kind of hitting rock bottom," Johnson said, "We just need to man up. Let's go. Let's start doing the things we're capable of doing. But the ones that get me are the called ones, the called strikeouts."
The three backwards Ks in the ninth tonight were particularly frustrating. Zimmerman K'd for the fourth time to start the frame, and after Adam LaRoche singled both Tyler Moore and Danny Espinosa took called strike threes from Grilli, who need 18 pitches to strike out the side. The Nationals dropped back down to .500 with the loss in the first game of three on the road in Pittsburgh. Tomorrow afternoon the entire baseball world will be watching Stephen Strasburg's every move on the mound in his first start since talk of irritation in his forearm got the baseball world talking about his health again.