Both players are hitless for struggling offense

Health has been an issue all season for the Nationals. Just when the team thinks it has all of its pieces in place something else comes up. That happened twice last week when Ian Desmond hyperextended his left knee and also strained a hamstring while running out a ground ball, and then Michael Morse was hit by a pitch on the right wrist.

Both moments were scary. Desmond pulled up clutching the back of his leg in the eighth inning of a game against the Atlanta Braves last Wednesday. Two days later, Morse was drilled in the hand by a pitch from Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick. Morse immediately left that contest and needed X-rays to tell him nothing was broken. He was diagnosed with a bruise.

Still, both players sat out the rest of that series in Philadelphia and their absence against quality starting pitching -- Roy Halladay started on Saturday and Cliff Lee on Sunday -- showed how slim the margin for error is with Washington's offense. With two starters out, the Nats' bench was compromised and they managed just five runs in the three games.

Morse had previously jammed a thumb and also missed the first two months of the season with a strained lat muscle. Desmond had already missed 25 games in the second half with a small tear in his left oblique.

It wasn't exactly a night to remember for either player upon their return to the starting lineup. The Nats were drubbed 9-0 at Miami and have now scored six runs total during a five-game losing streak that is starting to get serious. Morse was 0-for-3 on Tuesday and was substituted out in a double switch for utility man Steve Lombardozzi in the sixth inning. He batted fifth. Meanwhile, Desmond's hamstring held up in the field. But he, too, was hitless in an 0-for-4 performance. He played the entire contest.

It was the first time Washington had its full contingent of players -- save for catcher Wilson Ramos, who is out for the season with a torn ACL -- since last Wednesday's loss to Atlanta, the first of this current streak.