WEB UPDATE: Nationals can’t get it together

Posted Tuesday, July 26, 12:28 a.m. Before July 12, Frank Robinson was the most popular man inside of the Beltway. The 70-year-old Washington Nationals manager had his squad in sole possession of first place in the National League East. The Nats finally shook off the Canadian tundra and were baseball’s “it” team.

Oh, how things have changed.

After losing 13 of the last 18 games, baseball fans have started to wonder how and why the wheels have fallen off.

“We’ve got to start playing good baseball,” a surly Robinson told The Hatchet Sunday. “We need to think how we can get back to what we were doing.”

What the Nationals were doing was winning; 51 wins before the All-Star Break, including 32 home victories. The Nationals had sole possession of first place in the NL East, with no team in sight.

Looking to get back on track, the Nationals hosted the Houston Astros for a four-game series at RFK last weekend.

After two straight losses, including a 14-1 trouncing by Roger Clemens and company, the Nationals stole one, 4-2, on Saturday night. On Sunday, the Nats had the opportunity to get back on their feet before going into a six-game road trip against the Atlanta Braves and Florida Marlins that may make or break their season.

But staying consistent to their poor play, the Nats gave up 10 hits and lost 4-1 in 14 innings.

Eric Bruntlett’s three-run home run that eventually sealed the deal for the Astros (51-47) dropped the Nationals to 55-44.

Starting pitcher John Patterson was the lone bright spot in the Nationals’ lineup, striking out a career-high 10 batters.

“I’m not really going for strikeouts,” Patterson explained. “I’m locating my pitches and learning how to deal with it.”

The Nationals were only able to muster four hits with an offense that lacked first baseman Nick Johnson and shortstop Junior Spivey. Johnson is expected to come back this week when the Nationals travel south to face NL East rival Atlanta Braves.

The Nationals may be without outfielder Jose Guillen, who went down with a wrist injury with one out in the ninth inning. The X-rays came back negative, and he is listed day to day with a wrist contusion.

“This is not the same ball club that played before the All-Star break,” Robinson said. “Not personnel-wise.”

The addition of Johnson to the lineup will add some offensive production, but Robinson said that the rest of the team needs to start playing up to first-half standards.

“What, is (Johnson) going to hit for everybody?” Robinson mused. “Everybody’s got to get a wake up call. Something is missing.”

Patterson added that an attitude adjustment may be needed.

“We’ve got to get competitive again,” he said. “We need to find something inside of us to change.”

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