WASHINGTON (AP) -- Injuries, poor hitting, a bit of clubhouse tension. You name it, the Washington Nationals are trying to overcome it these days -- and the San Diego Padres were only too happy to take full advantage.
Facing a Nationals lineup that looked like something manager Frank Robinson might send out for a split-squad spring training game, a slightly injured Jake Peavy tossed a five-hitter and drove in a run to lead San Diego past Washington 3-0 on Sunday to complete a series sweep.
"We're losing ballgames that we should be winning," Robinson said, "and pretty soon it will be too late."
The Nationals have lost eight of their last nine series and are just 6-17 since the All-Star break. Once 5½ games ahead in the NL East, Washington is now that far behind Atlanta, tied with Florida for second. The Nationals have fallen two games behind Houston in the wild-card race.
"We definitely didn't want to be under .500. We felt embarrassed when we played the way we did," Peavy said. "But this team is back playing the baseball that we know we can play."
Peavy (10-4) showed no signs of being hampered by a middle finger that was black and blue after getting hit by a ball when he shagged flies Friday. Sticking to his fastball and changeup, he had 10 strikeouts, giving him 29 in his last three starts, and now leads the majors with 165. The shutout was his second this season.
"I didn't feel great by any means," Peavy said.
Before his next outing, manager Bruce Bochy joked, "We're going to slam a car door on him just to get him ready."
Washington starter Esteban Loaiza (6-8) gave up the three runs on six hits over seven innings.
A day after holding a 104-minute, closed-door clubhouse meeting to "clear the air," Robinson tried another gambit. Whether he was trying to spark his struggling offense or just trying to give some rest to his regulars before a 13-game road trip, the results were
what might have been expected -- after all, first baseman Nick Johnson and shortstop Cristian Guzman were the only regulars who began the game. Right fielder Jose Guillen and catcher Brian Schneider were already sidelined by bad shoulders, but other regulars would have been available.
Indeed, Bochy did a double-take when he was handed the Nationals' lineup a couple of hours before the first pitch.
"Every team or manager does it at some point," Bochy said and then paused before adding with a smile: "He could have shaken it up a little more and taken Johnson out."
Johnson was the only member of the Nationals' starting nine who entered Sunday with a batting average above .300 -- .320 with 10 homers and 46 RBI -- and Peavy clearly was not going to let the first baseman hurt him.
The right-hander pitched around Johnson early, walking him twice -- Peavy's only free passes -- and then went after him once the Padres had a lead.
The very first time the Padres got a runner as far as second base -- on Khalil Greene's double in the fifth -- they scored, thanks to Peavy's single up the middle. In the sixth, Eric Young's second homer of the season went down the left field line and landed just
below the upper deck. In the seventh, Xavier Nady's 12th homer was to straightaway center, over the 410-foot marker.
A Washington player only once reached third, putting runners on the corners in the sixth. But Matt Cepicky grounded meekly to first base.
After the game, Cepicky wasn't pleased about being designated for assignment when the Nationals called up outfielder Brandon Watson from Triple-A New Orleans. The plan is to put Watson in the lineup, probably in the leadoff spot.
Just one more bid to get things going.
"We're not giving up," Loaiza said, "and we're not giving in."
From the fifth into the eighth, Peavy had a stretch during which eight of 10 outs he recorded were by strikeout, including Jose Vidro and Brad Wilkerson when both regulars pinch-hit in the seventh. ... Wilkerson stayed in to play center field and made a tumbling catch on a sinking liner by Nady. ... Guillen will get a second opinion on his ailing left shoulder from Dr. James Andrews. GM Jim Bowden said Guillen probably won't play in the upcoming series at Houston and might also miss time in the next series, at Colorado.
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