Their offense could continue to have trouble in the middle contest of the Beltway Series.
Edwin Jackson , the owner of the lowest ERA of the Nationals' stellar starters over the last six weeks, takes the ball against one of his favorite opponents Saturday night in Baltimore.
After totaling three runs and 12 hits while being swept in three games by the New York Mets this week, the Orioles (40-30) did little to show they were busting out of their slump Friday. Mark Reynolds homered and J.J. Hardy hit a run-scoring double, and that was all the offense Jason Hammel needed in a 2-1 victory as Baltimore pulled within 1 1/2 games of AL East-leading New York.
"We hit the ball hard with runners on, got zilch," said Washington's Davey Johnson, who was managing his first game at Camden Yards since 1997, when he guided the Orioles to the AL East title.
The Nationals (40-28), who own a 2 1/2-game lead in the NL East, lost for the fifth time in seven contests, and the heart of their order is struggling mightily. No. 3 hitter Ryan Zimmerman is batting .114 over his last 11 games, while cleanup hitter Adam LaRoche is mired in an 0-for-14 slump.
The Orioles are experiencing similar problems, with No. 3 hitter Chris Davis hitless in his last 24 at-bats and cleanup man Adam Jones 2 for 15 in his last four games and without an RBI in his last nine.
Jones hasn't had much success against Jackson (3-4, 3.02 ERA), going 4 for 17, while Davis and Matt Wieters have had virtually none, combining to go 0 for 26 with nine strikeouts.
Jackson has yielded two earned runs or fewer in each of his last four starts, and has a 2.63 ERA - the best on the team among the starters - in eight games since May 8. The right-hander is just 2-3 in that stretch, though, after allowing two runs in six innings of Sunday's 4-1 loss to the Yankees.
"All in all, I came off the field giving the team a chance to win," Jackson told the Nationals' official website. "As a starter, that's your job."
He pitched even better but didn't get the win May 18 against Baltimore, yielding a run and five hits with eight strikeouts in eight innings of a 2-1, 11-inning loss. That kind of dominance over the Orioles has been commonplace lately, as Jackson is 3-0 with a 0.95 ERA in his last five starts against them.
Wei-Yin Chen's worst outing of an otherwise solid rookie season came at the hands of the Nationals.
In Washington on May 20, Chen (7-2, 3.36) was knocked around for six runs and eight hits in 4 1-3 innings of a 9-3 loss. Bryce Harper went 2 for 3 with a triple off the Taiwanese left-hander, while Jesus Flores homered.
Harper is 1 for 12 in his last four games and hitless in his last 12 at-bats against lefties. He had been batting .400 against southpaws before that.
Chen, 4-0 with a 2.72 ERA in six home starts, takes the mound after pitching seven innings in Sunday's 2-0 win at Atlanta. He has posted a 2.21 ERA in winning his last three starts after going 0-2 with a 7.31 ERA in the previous three.
"Chen-sational," Jones said.
|June 17, 2012||Ian Desmond||Day-to-Day||Oblique soreness|
|June 11, 2012||Roger Bernadina||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained right hamstring|
|June 10, 2012||Bryce Harper||Day-to-Day||Sore back|
|June 06, 2012||Henry Rodriguez||15-Day DL||Strained right index finger|
|May 30, 2012||Carlos Maldonado||15-Day DL||Lower back strain|
|May 27, 2012||Chad Tracy||15-Day DL||Groin soreness|
|June 13, 2012||Brian Matusz||Day-to-Day||Bruised nose|
|June 13, 2012||Endy Chavez||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
|June 12, 2012||Endy Chavez||Day-to-Day||Left game - Strained right hamstring|
|June 07, 2012||Adam Jones||Day-to-Day||Left game - right wrist soreness|
|June 05, 2012||Wilson Betemit||Day-to-Day||Illness|
|May 30, 2012||Nick Markakis||15-Day DL||Broken hamate bone, right wrist|
BALTIMORE (AP) -- The reason why the Washington Nationals are in first place in the NL East can be summed up in one word: pitching.
Edwin Jackson hammered home that point against the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday night, taking a one-hitter into the seventh inning to provide Washington with a 3-1 victory.
Adam LaRoche homered for the Nationals, who made the most of eight hits in improving to 10-7 in interleague play and 2-3 against Baltimore.
Jackson (4-4) gave up one run, four hits and a walk in 6 1-3 innings. He retired the first 12 batters he faced and permitted only one runner past first base through six innings.
Jackson appeared dominant, but it was actually a struggle.
"It was kind of a funny game because Edwin didn't feel too good when he started the game," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said.
Said Jackson: "I wasn't sick. It was just one of those days you don't have blow-away stuff. You just have to go out and pitch. That's pretty much what it was from the time I started throwing in the pen, I knew what kind of day it was going to be."
Four pitchers in Washington's starting rotation - Jackson, Stephen Strasburg , Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann - have an ERA under 3.00.
"It's unbelievable," Johnson said. "It just shows you how good they've been going. I'm impressed, and I'm not easily impressed."
Washington hasn't scored in double figures this season and owns a team batting average of .238, but these guys sure can throw the baseball - as evidenced by their major-league leading 2.96 ERA.
"That's a good team, and it starts with their starting pitching," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "And their bullpen's doing well, too."
Such was the case Saturday night.
After Adam Jones ruined Jackson's shutout bid by leading off the seventh with a home run, the right-hander retired Matt Wieters on a deep fly before giving up successive singles.
Former Oriole Michael Gonzalez came in and got pinch-hitter Ronny Paulino to line into an inning-ending double play.
Sean Burnett worked the eighth, and Tyler Clippard got three straight outs for his 12th save in 13 tries.
Baltimore has lost four of five, scoring only six runs in that span. The Orioles were blanked twice by the Mets and needed Jones' team-high 19th homer to avoid a shutout in this one.
"You're not going to throw up a lot of runs every night, but New York had some great pitching against us, and these guys, that's why they're in first place," Baltimore's Mark Reynolds said. "They've got good arms. It's tough to get a rally going against a guy like Edwin."
Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen (7-3) allowed three runs, two earned, and six hits in five innings. He bloodied his fingernail on a comebacker in the fourth inning, but did not blame that on his shaky performance.
"Physically, mentally and mechanically, I felt really great, but I got in some trouble after two strikes," Chen said through an interpreter. "I cannot finish out."
The Taiwan native won his three previous starts, over Boston, Pittsburgh and Atlanta. He is 0-2 with a 7.71 ERA in his two outings against Washington and 7-1 in his other 12 starts.
The game attracted 46,298 fans, the fifth sellout at Camden Yards this season. The first was on opening day, and the Phillies and Nationals each drew two packed houses.
Washington went up 2-0 in the second inning. With runners at second and third and two outs, Orioles third baseman Wilson Betemit ranged to his left to grab a grounder by Xavier Nady , then bounced a throw to first that eluded Reynolds. Nady received credit for an RBI single, and the other run came home on the throwing error.
LaRoche led off the fourth with his team-leading 13th homer, a towering fly that dropped over the center-field wall. Eleven of his last 16 hits have been for extra bases.
Baltimore's first runner came when Jones reached on an error by third baseman Ryan Zimmerman leading off the fifth. He took third on a one-out single by Wilson Betemit , and after a walk loaded the bases with two outs, Jackson retired Steve Pearce on a popup.
NOTES: Jackson is 6-1 lifetime against Baltimore, 4-0 with a 1.02 ERA over the last four seasons. ... The Orioles released 49-year-old LHP Jamie Moyer at his request. Moyer pitched in three games for Triple-A Norfolk after signing a minor league contract on June 6. ... The Orioles and Nationals wrap up the series, as well as interleague play, on Sunday. Jake Arrieta (2-5 with a 6.85 ERA at home), starts for Baltimore. Ross Detwiler (4-3) goes for Washington. ... Baltimore's Chris Davis went 0 for 4 and is hitless in his last 28 at-bats. ... Chen has allowed nine homers this season, seven of them solo shots. ... Johnson said Zimmerman might need a shot in his ailing right shoulder.