6:14 PM EDT, May 25, 2011
Jayson Werth says it’s obvious things need to change in the Nationals’ clubhouse. But he’s not ready to tell everyone about Washington’s problems just yet.
Washington never led as Zack Greinke hit the go-ahead homer and struck out 10 over seven innings, leading the Milwaukee Brewers to a 6-4 win on Wednesday and a series sweep.
Michael Morse hit his third homer in three days for the Nationals, who limped home on a season-worst five-game skid as part of an ugly 1-7 road trip.
“I have some ideas, obviously, and some thoughts that I don’t really want to share with the world right now. I think it’s pretty obvious what’s going on around here,” Werth said. “I’m not going to get into it right now. It is what it is. It’s unfortunate. We’re a way better ballclub.”
They just haven’t shown it lately.
Washington has lost its share of close games. The Nationals are 4-9 in games decided by one run including six straight losses, but they’ve also lost their share of ugly ones.
Against Milwaukee, the starting pitching failed them on Monday night, the normally steady bullpen imploded on Tuesday night and the offense couldn’t do anything on Wednesday against Greinke beyond one brief inning.
It’s all added up to a miserable experience.
“It was a terrible road trip. We were 1-7. That’s a bad road trip,” Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. “I don’t think there’s one specific thing. I think we’ve just got to find a way to put it all together; the offense, the pitching together more often on the same day. ... We’ve had parts, but not too often lately on the same day.”
Greinke (3-1) struck out at least one batter each inning. He mixed a mid-90s fastball with two breaking balls, including a curve that dipped as low as 62 mph when Jerry Hairston awkwardly waved at it to end the fourth.
His only hiccup came earlier in the inning.
Werth singled, Laynce Nix doubled and Morse hit a three-run shot to left-center field that tied it 3-all. Then, just as quickly as Washington scored, Greinke retired the next three batters and 12 of his final 13. He ended his outing by striking out pinch hitter Rick Ankiel for his 10th career game with at least 10 strikeouts.
Reliever LaTroy Hawkins gave up a sacrifice fly to Nix in the eighth that cut it to 5-4 before leaving for Kameron Loe, who struck out Morse to end the inning.
Yuniesky Betancourt gave Milwaukee a 6-4 lead with a two-out, run-scoring double in the eighth and Loe pitched the ninth for his first save after closer John Axford had thrown four of the previous five days.
Morse has hit five homers and driven in 12 runs in six career games at Miller Park after also hitting a solo shot on Monday and his first career grand slam on Tuesday, but his blast set the stage for Greinke.
Greinke swung at the first pitch he saw from Jason Marquis (5-2) in the fifth, hitting a towering fly ball down the left-field line to give Milwaukee a 4-3 lead.
“I was just trying to throw a first-pitch heater,” Marquis said. “I left it up a little bit. I know he’s a pretty good athlete. It happens.”
Those kind of things have been happening a lot for Washington lately.
“We just can’t get over the hump. We get right there and we have opportunities and chances to win games, and we don’t win them. And we should,” Werth said. “Good ballclubs are resilient. Good players are resilient and will bounce back. I believe in these guys in here. We have a great group of guys and we have a lot of talent. We just have to keep going.”
After a day off, the Nationals return home for a six-game homestand against San Diego and Philadelphia.
“It’s a tough road trip. It’s not the first time or the last time we’re going to have a road trip like this. But our team, I can’t say it enough, we’re better than this,” Morse said. “Things are going to come around and we’re going to start clicking and get running on all cylinders. Hopefully it’s very soon.”
NOTES: Nationals RHP Todd Coffey got a big ovation when he sprinted into the game in the seventh. Coffey pitched for the Brewers from 2008-10. ... Morse also homered in three straight games from Sept. 26-28, 2009. ... Greinke’s homer was the 11th by a pitcher against the Nationals since the team relocated to Washington in 2005. ... Washington has lost eight straight at Miller Park.
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