WASHINGTON -- After his team left 10 men on base in Friday night's loss to the D-backs, Nationals manager Dave Martinez decided to swap Ryan Zimmerman for Howie Kendrick in the lineup, moving the first baseman to the second spot and putting Kendrick cleanup. Martinez said he wanted to switch
WASHINGTON -- After his team left 10 men on base in Friday night's loss to the D-backs, Nationals manager Dave Martinez decided to swap Ryan Zimmerman for Howie Kendrick in the lineup, moving the first baseman to the second spot and putting Kendrick cleanup. Martinez said he wanted to switch things up in hopes that his offense could come alive.
"We just have to get that one big hit," Martinez said before the game.
In Saturday's 4-3 10-inning loss, the Nationals' sixth in their past seven games, Martinez did get a big hit from both Zimmerman and Kendrick. The swap, it seemed, had worked. But not much else did for the Nationals, as Zimmerman and Kendrick's two-out homers were the bright spots during a day of stagnant offense and bullpen trouble.
Austin Adams walked home the go-ahead run in the top of the 10th, putting a ball in the dirt on a 3-2 count.
"I'm trying to induce a ground ball there, all it takes is for him to swing," Adams said. "It completely changes, though, if I'm throwing more strikes, because now he's on the aggressive."
Nick Ahmed, the run-scorer, was Arizona's catalyst that inning, getting on with a double before Adams came in and walked back-to-back hitters.
A late rally in the bottom of the 10th fell short, the game ending with the bases loaded. The loss dropped the Nationals to 1-8 in one-run games this season.
"Usually when you're going through skids you're playing terrible. We haven't played terrible we just haven't won close games. Have to start driving in runs when we have the chance," Zimmerman said.
The Nationals got a steady and efficient performance from Jeremy Hellickson, who gave up five hits and threw just 57 pitches (43 strikes) in 5 1/3 innings. He was pulled after David Peralta's second home run in the sixth.
"It was a hard decision," Martinez said of taking Hellickson out. "He pitched well, he gave us a chance to win."
In the eighth, Ryan Madson gave up singles to Ahmed, Peralta and A.J. Pollock to tie the game.
The Nationals struggled to give their pitchers support at the plate. Trea Turner went 0-for-4, including a strikeout in the 10th, and Bryce Harper finished 1-for-4 with two strikeouts. Zimmerman was the only Nationals player with multiple hits, going 2-for-5 with two RBIs.
That last gasp was an encouraging sign for Martinez, evidence that his team won't give up during this tough stretch.
"I told them all, 'You're playing with heart, I love it. This thing will change,'" Martinez said.
Harper's only hit of the game, a first-inning single, was clocked at 113.4 mph. It is the hardest-hit ball by a Nationals batter this season. The hard contact was a promising sign for Nationals fans who have been waiting for Harper's bat to heat up. The left fielder is 3-for-22 in his past eight games.
HE SAID IT
"It's funny, if you look at him -- to me he looks like a baby. I've got kids older than him. But he's been around for such a long time, he's a young veteran. And his presence in the clubhouse and out on the field speaks for itself. I'm really happy for him and I'm glad I get to manage him every day." -- Martinez, on Harper celebrating the six-year anniversary of his MLB debut at age 25
The Nationals will turn to Giovany Gonzalez to finish out the D-backs series Sunday at 1:35 p.m. ET. Gonzalez is coming off a loss to the Giants on Monday in which he struck out a season-low four batters and gave up three earned runs. Former Nationals lefty Robbie Ray will start for Arizona.
Michael Errigo is a contributor to MLB.com based in Washington.