four three errors in last night's 8-0 loss gave the Nationals the lead among MLB teams after 16 games with 19 total, ahead of the Miami Marlins' 16 in 16 and the LA Dodgers 15 in their first 16 games.
First-year manager Matt Williams was at a loss to explain the defensive lapses.
Ian Desmond misplayed a grounder hit his way in the first at bat of the game.
In the fourth inning, the shortstop spiked a throw to first that not even Adam LaRoche could pick cleanly out of the dirt. Those were Desmond's sixth and seventh errors already this season.
Of course, the 28-year-old infielder made seven errors in his first 18 games in 2013, then went on a 59-game errorless streak before making his eighth.
So what was the problem for Desmond last night in Nationals Park?
"I don't know," Williams said when asked if there was any explanation, "other than there are no excuses to make. It's cold out there. Ball is slick, for sure. He got a little bit of a crossfire on the ball that he threw in the dirt to Adam... but make no mistake, this guy works his fanny off every day. What did he have, 50-something games last year without making an error too? So, you try to explain it, there's no explaining it."
Taylor Jordan's trouble with a weak grounder in the second at bat of the game, combined with Desmond's E:6, put the first two runners on, both of whom came around to score as the Cardinals jumped out to a 3-0 lead after a half inning in the series opener.
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Cards' infielder Kolten Wong hit a weak roller back to Jordan, who fielded it but couldn't get it out of his glove in time to make the throw to first.
"Taylor tried to get the ball out of his glove, couldn't get it out of his glove," Williams said.
"I saw that he was very quick," Jordan told reporters after the Nationals' eighth straight loss to the Cardinals. "I just couldn't get my hand inside the glove and pull out the ball in time."
The Cardinals collected seven hits and seven runs, five earned in 5 1/3 IP in the second rough outing of the season for Jordan, the 25-year-old, '09 Nats' 9th Round pick. In his last 10 1/3 innings on the mound, the right-hander has surrendered 17 hits, four walks and 12 runs, 10 earned. Last night in the nation's capital, he struggled early, but recovered before tiring toward the end of his outing.
"He wasn't crisp if you want to say that," Williams explained. "It just wasn't crisp today. But again, outside of the miscues, he didn't pitch all that bad. He got into an issue his last inning, but then his pitch count was way up there, but outside of the first inning it wasn't that bad. He wasn't as crisp as normal, but he made his pitches and he battled."
Jordan said the errors didn't affect his performance.
"Mistakes are going to happen," he said. "It's not surprising at all. I mean, these things definitely happen. We have a very good infield. Like I said, these things just happen."
"There [were] a couple of tough plays," he continued. "Things just didn't go our way, obviously."
As for his own outing? "Thought I missed a couple of pitches up," Jordan said. "I didn't really show good fastball command for the most part. I had decent movement today though."
Jordan and the Nationals were up against Adam Wainwright, the veteran right-hander, who was in control throughout most of last night's start.
"Any time you go up against Adam Wainwright it's going to be difficult," Williams said. "We had an opportunity with the bases loaded early and it didn't happen. And addressing the defensive issues, those happen, it just seems like it's happening an extraordinary amount to us, so what do you do about it? Well, we just keep grinding away at it. We keep going out there. Tomorrow we'll certainly take a full BP and full grounders and it's a scheduled extra work [day] for the pitchers tomorrow. It's per the schedule. How we do it all the time. What to make of it? I don't know."
Williams said he was not alarmed by the way the Nationals have played early this season, with the errors and early-inning struggles by their starting pitchers and losses in six of the seven games they've played against so-called "first division" teams.
"I'm not alarmed," he said. "I'm alarmed if anything about us. If we take care of things then we've got a chance every day. But there's been some games where we haven't done that. So that's what we'll strive to do."
The Nationals get a chance to turn the tide tonight when they send Gio Gonzalez out to the mound to take on the Cardinals and right-hander Michael Wacha.
• Here's the Nationals' lineup for the second game of four with the Cards: