"He decided to bunt. That kind of took everybody by surprise. So that being the case, he just didn't bunt it where he wanted to bunt the ball."-- Jim Riggleman, on Livan's bases loaded bunt attempt, Aug. 31, 2009.
The Nats had some chances against Stauffer, but they left eight men on base and hit into two double plays, including a costly 1-2-3 double play that started when Nats starter Livan Hernandez thought it would be a good idea to bunt with the bases loaded.
The bunt went straight back to the pitcher, who underhanded to the catcher to start the rally-killing DP.
The middle of the Nats' order, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham, combined to go 1-for-12 with five strikeouts. Leadoff man Willie Harris also went 0-for-3, lowering his average to .223 for the season. He is 3-for-17 (.176) with just one run since taking over the leadoff spot Aug. 27.
Hernandez (L, 7-9, 5.26) might have made a mistake hitting, but he was golden on the mound. He pitched an eight-inning complete game, allowing three earned runs on seven hits and one walk, striking out five.
THE TAKEAWAY: The Nats must have left their bats in Chicago. Since scoring 15 runs Aug. 25, the Nats have averaged just 2.8 runs per game, including the last two where they scored just one run in each game.
It's probably no coincidence the team-wide slump comes after their catalyst, Nyjer Morgan, went down for the season with a broken bone in his left hand.
Harris' troubles were detailed above. Zimmerman is three for his last 18, Dunn's troubles go back two weeks and is 6-for34 (.176) over that span, and Willingham is seven for his last 45, a .156 clip.
THE GOOD: Swingin' Pete Orr. Meet your semi-regular second baseman for the next four weeks! He went 2-for-4 with an RBI, and is hitting .533 since his call-up.
THE BAD: Wil Nieves. He had a rough night. In the seventh he was thrown out trying to stretch a single to the right field corner into a double, and in the ninth, bounced into a 4-6-3 double play after Bard led the inning off with a single.
THE UGLY: Gotta be the bunt play with the bases loaded with one out in the fourth. I appreciate Livo thinking he doesn't want to bounce out into a double play, but he's better off striking out there than even attempting a bunt in that situation. So many things have to happen perfectly to pull it off, and as a result, the Nats make still more outs on the basepaths.
NEXT GAME: Game two of the three game series is tonight at 10:05 EDT in San Diego. J.D. Martin (3-3, 4.85) takes on Clayton Richard (7-4, 4.79).
NOTES: Justin Maxwell was recalled before the game. He will share some time with Harris in centerfield. He hit .244/.344/.396 with 13 home runs, 42 RBI and 35 stolen bases in 448 plate appearances with Triple-A Syracuse this season.