With the weekend series in Atlanta on the line in the third game of three with the Braves this afternoon in Turner Field, the Washington Nationals turned to 25-year-old right-hander Nate Karns for the second time in seven days since Ross Detwiler was still unavailable as he works back from an oblique injury. In his second major league outing, Karns gave up seven hits, a walk and four runs, three earned in 4.1 IP in which he threw 88 pitches and struck out six Braves' batters.
Karns' first inning began with a throwing error by Ryan Zimmerman at third. A two-run home run by Ramiro Pena followed on the first pitch of the next at bat. B.J. Upton homered off Karns in the second to make it 3-2 after the Nationals had tied it at 2-2 in the top of the inning. The Braves got a one-out single and a two-out walk out of the Nats' right-hander before he was lifted in the fifth, and one of the two runners Karns put on scored to make it 4-2 Atlanta after five.
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Nats' lefty Zach Duke gave up a two-run double by Freddie Freeman in the sixth after an Ian Desmond home run got Washington within one, but Freeman's opposite field liner, which just missed being a grand slam gave Atlanta a three-run lead that held up. After Duke, Erik Davis (1.2 IP, 0 H, 2 Ks) in his major league debut and Fernando Abad (1.0 IP, 0 H, 1 K) had impressive relief outings, but the Braves took the finale by a score of 6-3, improving to 34-22 on the year.
Davey Johnson was happy with Nate Karns' work on the mound. "Karnsy did a good job," the manager said, "I thought he threw the ball better than he did at home and he was getting to that pitch limit where I didn't want him to do too much. But threw a great ballgame. It's a good-hitting ballclub. Made a lot of good pitches and Erik Davis, first time out, he looked great. Threw the ball great, so that's two good signs." While the Nationals got two strong relief outings, they came up empty against the Braves' bullpen again, after collecting just five hits and three runs, two earned against Maholm over the 6.0 innings the left-handed starter was on the mound.
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Desmond: "We're going to hit our stride eventually. I know fans and everyone else are tired of hearing that. But it's bound to happen."— Mark Zuckerman (@ZuckermanCSN) June 2, 2013
"Offense still needs perking up," the Nats' skipper said, "but I think we're going to get Jayson [Werth] back tomorrow, that will be a shot in the arm." The Nationals' 33-year-old outfielder was 2 for 4 with two home runs for the Class-A Advanced Potomac Nationals in a P-Nats' win on Sunday, leaving him 9 for 16 five games into his second rehab stint with the Nats' Low-A affiliate. "He must have been really feeling frisky," Johnson said when the two home runs were brought up. "He'll be ready to carry us on his shoulders I'm sure," the Nationals' manager quipped.
The loss in Atlanta this afternoon dropped the Nationals to a game under .500 at 28-29. Asked what his team needed to do to turn things around, Johnson said that it really comes down to the offense. "We're just -- about half of the ballclub is not doing the things they're capable of offensively," Johnson admitted, "I was looking up there and a bunch of guys are hitting .150. There's too good a quality players here to be doing that and I'm sure we'll pick it up, it's just a tough time. A couple guys hurt, but it always gives an opportunity for other guys that have talent. We're just not getting it done."
The Nationals dropped two of three head-to-head with the NL East's first-place team. The Nats could have easily won Saturday night's game, and they were in it with Atlanta for most of this afternoon's series finale, but after the win on Friday they dropped two-straight and fell to 3-7 against the Braves after ten games with their divisional rivals.
"It's just the offense is just sputtering a little bit," Johnson said. "Be good to get Jayson Werth back and some other guys are certainly capable, we've just got to start doing it, that's all. It's that simple." Werth may be returning, but Bryce Harper's out for at least another nine days. Wilson Ramos is still on the DL. There hasn't been any update on the condition of Stephen Strasburg's strained lat. Ross Detwiler's expected to return for his next start... if he's back to 100%. The Nationals have Monday off, then they start a three-game series with the New York Mets, who followed up a four-game sweep of the New York Yankees by dropping three straight to the Miami Marlins.
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No update on status of Stephen Strasburg today. Davey said earliest he will try to throw is prob Weds. but it's all based on how he feels.— Amanda Comak (@acomak) June 2, 2013
Asked if he was worried about where the Nationals sit at this point, the Nats' manager said there was still time to turn things around. "There's still plenty of time," the 70-year-old veteran in his 15th season on the bench said. "We can right the ship and get things going in the right direction. We've still got plenty of time."