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Nationals strand 12, can't win it for dazzling Gio

Lefty fans season-high 11, but Nats continue to scuffle, fall below .500

WASHINGTON -- Hanley Ramirez's double in the 10th inning helped the Dodgers defeat the Nationals, 3-1, in front of a sellout crowd of 41,816 at Nationals Park on Saturday night. The Nationals are now a game under .500 with a 48-49 record, remaining seven games behind the first-place Braves.

Nationals reliever Craig Stammen was on the mound when Los Angeles broke a 1-1 tie in the 10th. Adrian Gonzalez led off with a double down the third-base line. Ramirez followed and doubled over the head of Denard Span in center field, scoring Gonzalez.

"I really made some dumb mistakes," Stammen said. "I really made a bad pitch to [Gonzalez]. The second one [to Ramirez] was really bad, probably one of the worst I made all year."

Andre Ethier added a sacrifice fly to left field off left-hander Ian Krol, scoring Ramirez.

It was another game of lost opportunities. Coming off the All-Star break, the Nationals were hoping they would generate more offense, but they have scored a total of three runs in two games and left 12 runners on base Saturday.

"We have to keep on grinding. That's all you can do," shortstop Ian Desmond said. "I'm not going to sit here and say we are playing as good as we should be. I also can't say this is the end of the road. I don't know what else to say besides it's going to be fine. We are going to get better and be the players that we know that we are. Sometimes, I think, you have to look in the mirror and ask yourself, 'What are you doing, what are you supposed to be doing?'"

The Nationals wasted Gio Gonzalez's outstanding effort on the mound. Gonzalez dominated the Dodgers, pitching six shutout innings, allowing four hits and striking out a season-high 11 batters. Los Angeles had a chance to score against Gonzalez in the third inning. Dodgers right-hander Zack Greinke led off with a double, but was left stranded at third base after Yasiel Puig struck out and Adrian Gonzalez grounded out to end the threat.

Greinke was solid on the mound, too, going six innings and allowing a run on seven hits. Washington was able to get on the board against the right-hander in the sixth inning. With runners on first and second and two outs, pinch-hitter Roger Bernadina came to the plate and hit a broken-bat single to right field, scoring Chad Tracy and giving Washington a 1-0 lead.

But the Dodgers ended up tying the score in the top of the seventh inning against reliever Drew Storen. After getting two quick outs, Storen allowed a double to Skip Schumaker, who scored on a broken-bat single by Mark Ellis.

The Nationals had plenty of opportunities to score more than one run in the game. They had the bases loaded with one out against Greinke in the first inning, but Jayson Werth and Desmond popped up to end the threat.

In the next two innings, the Nats had a runner in scoring position with less than two outs against Greinke, but could not send the runners home.

"Got into some jams and made some good pitches. That was a problem, getting in trouble early, but I got through it, so that was nice," Greinke said. "I made some good pitches in the first inning, so I was happy with that. But some other times I caught a couple breaks."

In the bottom of the seventh inning, when the Nationals had runners on first and second with one out, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly decided to take reliever Jose Dominguez out of the game in favor of left-hander Paco Rodriguez. The southpaw struck out Bryce Harper for the second out before right-hander Ronald Belisario entered, and he was able to get Werth to ground out to end the threat.

Manager Davey Johnson was at a loss for words on how to improve the offense, which is near the bottom of the league in almost every category.

"That was a tough one. We had several opportunities," Johnson said. "We got into great hitting counts, we didn't do anything and that is what's frustrating. We get ahead in the count and then we can cherrypick. We are either making it too fine or not hitting it hard in play. That's kind of what we have been doing all year."

Catcher Wilson Ramos believes the team may be putting too much pressure on itself during RBI opportunities.

"Maybe everybody wants to get those RBIs. Maybe a little bit of pressure," Ramos said. "That happens in the game. We have to concentrate more in those situations and get base hits and not look for homers."

Asked if hitting coach Rick Eckstein's job was on the line, Johnson said, "He is not in trouble with me. He is a great hitting coach. I believe in what he teaches. He is the best that I've had [in terms of] a hitting instructor. But he takes it harder than anybody. He works hard, he does more than anybody when trying to help people."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats.
Read More: Washington Nationals, Gio Gonzalez