Nats Offense Refuses To Click

The Washington Nationals had hoped to have more offense, but so far, all they've got is a lot of struggling hitters. The Nationals lost to Houston 6-1 Friday night.

It's only four games into the season, so you don't want to jump to any conclusions. But the Nationals' lineup is struggling to produce right now, and it could become a growing concern.

Washington managed only one run on five hits in a 6-1 loss to the Astros on Friday night. The club's troubles extend further back than that, though.

Catcher Brian Schneider has yet to get a hit and has yet to hit the ball out of the infield in 13 at-bats. Rookie center fielder Brandon Watson is 2-for-16 with one walk and looks uncomfortable at the plate. Fellow rookie Ryan Zimmerman created a stir with his game-tying homer off Mets closer Billy Wagner earlier this week, but he's 0-for-9 with seven strikeouts since then.

Manager Frank Robinson and hitting coach Mitchell Page spent extra time working with all three slumping players Friday afternoon. They both believe all of them will snap out of it in time, as does one of Washington's veteran hitters.

"Once they get the butterflies out of their heads, they'll be fine," second baseman Jose Vidro said of the two rookies. "I went through that. The first couple of games you try to do too much. I don't know if that's the case, but it looks like that, because they're swinging at really bad pitches. But they're both good players, and I think they're going to bounce back. It's only four games."

REPLAY: It's hard to win many games when you only total five hits. It's even harder when your bullpen turns a tense pitchers' duel into a blowout.

That combination Friday night led to the Nationals' 6-1 loss to the Astros. The lineup managed only five hits against Houston's Brandon Backe and two relievers. Starter Tony Armas kept Washington in the game, but he was lifted after five innings and reliever Jason Bergmann immediately served up a pair of two-run homers to turn this into a Houston rout.

NOTES, QUOTES

  • RHP Felix Rodriguez is expected to be suspended for three games and manager Frank Robinson for one game for their involvement in Thursday night's beanball war against the Mets. Robinson spoke with MLB disciplinarian Bob Watson on Friday. The two will meet in person over the weekend in Houston, but Robinson said league rules mandate the suspensions for a pitcher and his manager when they are ejected following a warning from umpires.

    The Nationals, who saw six of their hitters beaned to the Mets' one during the series, are claiming a double standard. Mets RHP Duaner Sanchez hit 1B Nick Johnson one inning before Rodriguez plunked C Paul Lo Duca but received no punishment.

    HE SAID WHAT?
    "He can say whatever he wants. We'll see what happens Wednesday."
    OF Jose Guillen, after Mets RHP Pedro Martinez claimed he wasn't throwing at Guillen intentionally Thursday night. The two will meet again Wednesday at RFK Stadium.
    (AP Photo)
    "You let that go by, all you're doing is creating more animosity on the other side," Robinson said. "Hey, the guy gets hit after hitting a three-run homer, nothing happens. I think actually he let them get away with something there."
  • RHP Ryan Drese said he's ready to make his season debut Sunday against the Astros. Drese hasn't pitched in a major league game since August 18, after which he underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He remained at the Nationals' spring training complex at the start of the season to finish his rehabilitation but now believes he's good to go. "I worked hard this offseason," Drese said. "I've been waiting for this for a while."
  • 2B Jose Vidro homered off Astros RHP Brandon Backe on Friday night at Minute Maid Park, his first home run of the season. Vidro's last also came in Houston, August 10, 2005 off LHP Wandy Rodriguez.
  • RHP Gary Majewski's uniform was retired at St. Pius X High School in Houston on Friday before the Nationals' game against the Astros. Majewski is only the second athlete in school history to be honored with a jersey retirement ceremony, joining ex-NFL quarterback and current Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak.
THE NUMBERS GAME: 5 - Times Jose Guillen has been plunked by Mets ace Pedro Martinez in 40 career plate appearances.


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