During five-game skid, Nats have just 25 hits, seven runs

Ian Desmond and Steve Lombardozzi did their job at the top of the batting order, getting a combined four hits on Tuesday night. But the rest of the starters for the Washington Nationals continued to struggle, going a combined 1-for-23 in a 5-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

On their way to a 14-4 start, the Nats had a penchant for clutch hitting and getting just enough offense. Those days seem long ago however with the Nats mired in a five-game losing streak in which they have just 25 hits and seven runs. On Tuesday night, they were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

“It looks like we’re getting something going, then a double play,” Nats manager Davey Johnson said. “The homestand, I look for us to come out of it.”

Danny Espinosa, who has gone 2-for-19 during the streak, dropped to .195 for the season after going 0-for-4 Tuesday with a pair of strikeouts. Rick Ankiel went 0-for-4, grounding into a double play with none out and two on in the sixth. He also fanned twice and has just three hits in his last 21 trips.

“I feel like we got the hitters who can hit. We’re just not as aggressive as I’d like to see,” Johnson said. “I keep looking for us to kind of break out. Tomorrow’s another day.”

There is little relief in sight as the Nats take on tough Arizona pitchers the next two nights – Joe Saunders (2-1, 0.90 ERA) and Ian Kennedy (3-0, 3.38 ERA). The left-handed Saunders could be a particularly tough test. In games against lefty starters Saturday and Sunday, the Nats mustered a total of two runs and seven hits with 21 strikeouts.

The Nats’ thin margin of error has been exposed in recent games. After winning an amazing seven straight games in which they scored three or fewer runs, the Nats have lost five in a row when that has happened.

“Nobody was frustrated when we were winning 2-1 games and we were 14-4,” Desmond said. “This game is obviously mental. It will make you mental.”