Riggleman criticizes Nats following sloppy loss

April 03, 2011

WASHINGTON (AP) — After a crisp first two games, the Washington Nationals came unglued Sunday.

There were missed relay throws, muffed double plays and communication problems in the outfield. A balk plated an Atlanta run, and the Nationals struggled to put together any offense against Tim Hudson — again.

Hudson pitched seven solid innings in another strong start against Washington and Brian McCann had four RBIs in the Nationals’ 11-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves.

Hudson (1-0) gave up one run and three hits, struck out five and walked one. He didn’t allow a baserunner after Danny Espinosa singled to lead off the second, getting 18 consecutive outs.

“No matter where we played McCann — it was just out of reach — balls passed our infielders — for three days,” Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. “We played him every which way, and he kept hitting it the other way.”

The Nationals made just one error, but lots of physical and mental mistakes. Second baseman Espinosa made an error that cost them a run in the fifth and his first-inning bobble took away what could have been a key double play.

After losing 2-0 on opening day and winning 6-3 on Saturday, Riggleman wasn’t pleased with the game’s rhythm. Washington was only down 3-1 after six, but it seemed a lot worse.

“It had the feel of a five or six-run deficit instead of a two-run deficit because we weren’t playing good baseball,” Riggleman said. “It was just an ugly day.”

Atlanta put the game away with a six-run eighth inning, which featured Brian Broderick’s forgettable major league debut. The Rule 5 draft pick balked in his first run when his cleats got caught in the rubber.

“I was nervous going out there pitching,” Broderick said.

The sloppy performance undermined Jordan Zimmermann (0-1), who pitched six innings and was charged with three runs, two earned, and four hits.

“With everything that was going on around him, he pitched pretty good,” Riggleman said. “The game just didn’t have the same energy (as) the last two days. That was what was disappointing.”

Zimmermann, who underwent Tommy John surgery in August 2009, returned late last season to make seven starts. Riggleman thought he could have pitched longer.

“We’re really trying to look after him,” Riggleman said.

Zimmermann didn’t want to criticize his teammates as much as Riggleman did.

“We had a couple of little mishaps, I guess. We probably could have avoided those and saved a couple of runs,” Zimmermann said.

The Braves went in front for good with two runs in the fifth inning. Alex Gonzalez led off with a triple after his fly ball to right-center fell between outfielders Rick Ankiel and Jayson Werth, and he scored on a groundout by Freddie Freeman. Hudson walked and scored on Martin Prado’s double when Espinosa dropped the relay throw.

“Overall, it was a day we want to forget,” Ankiel said.

NOTES: Atlanta put RHP Jair Jurrjens on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right oblique muscle, retroactive to March 25. The Braves recalled LHP Mike Minor from Triple-A Gwinnett, and he is expected to start Wednesday’s game at Milwaukee. ... Matt Young made his major league debut as a pinch runner for Jones in the eighth and remained in the game as the left fielder. ... Nationals leadoff hitter Ian Desmond is 0 for 13 to start the season. Braves 2B Dan Uggla robbed him of a hit with an over-the-shoulder diving catch in the sixth inning.

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