Caught in a downward spiral during the most recent week of MLB regular season play, the Nationals were unable to right the ship Tuesday night with their most reliable starter, Livan Hernandez, on the mound. Joining the likes of David Hernandez and Jeff Francis, Todd Wellenmeyer becomes the latest mediocre pitcher to place a stranglehold on the Nationals' lineup, allowing just four hits and two runs over six innings of work. Meanwhile Wellenmeyer's counterpart, Hernandez, fell apart in the fifth inning, allowing the runs that propelled the Giants to a 4-2 victory in San Francisco.
For the first four innings of the game it appeared as though the game was a pitching duel with neither pitcher allowing the bats of either team to do much damage. Livo looked especially strong, locating pitches well and dropping some nasty hammers with his curveball, which he threw 12 of last night. The turning point of the game came in the fifth inning with two outs and the pitcher, Wellenmeyer, at the plate. Wellenmeyer was able to get a piece of a Hernandez forkball and blooped it along the right field line. Suddenly the Giants' hitters began to realize Livan's game plan, making their hitters reach for pitches away. San Francisco's lineup began looming over the plate and started sending balls flying all over the field. Andres Torres followed up Wellenmeyer's blooper with a shot up the middle of the infield and Edgar Renteria tapped a ball in front of Josh Willingham to bring the first run of the game home. The wheels began to fall off when Freddy Sanchez lined a double past Roger Bernadina to score two more runs. Pablo Sandoval followed suit by reaching for a changeup that sailed over Nyger Morgan's head and brought home the fourth run of the inning.
At the start of a road trip, coming off a win against the crosstown rival Orioles, with their best pitcher on the mound, this was a game the Nationals really needed to win. Now, with Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito toeing the rubber for San Francisco in the next two starts, the Nationals face a very real possibility of being swept and falling to the cellar of the National League East. The Nationals will counter the two former Cy Young pitchers with two of their most inexperienced pitchers, Luis Atilano and Craig Stammen, while at the same time dealing with injury to Pudge Rodriguez and devastating slump of Nyger Morgan. It would sure be nice to be optimistic about the team right now, but the current conditions could combine for a perfect storm resulting in a miserable road trip for the team from Washington.