WASHINGTON (AP) —Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth is fine with manager Davey Johnson’s plan to shuffle the lineup after the team dropped below .500 with its ninth loss in 12 games.
Even told Johnson he’d be OK moving out of his No. 2 slot in the batting order after Washington’s 4-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday completed a three-game sweep.
“We need to jumble it up, and we need to switch the ‘mojo’ a little bit,” Werth said, sitting in front of his locker in the home clubhouse at Nationals Park. “I think somebody was talking about (former NBA coach) Phil Jackson the other day. We need to call him up, have him come in here and burn some sage or something. We’re not very ‘feng shui’ right now.”
Johnson said he would insert bench player Steve Lombardozzi in the lineup Thursday against Cincinnati and make other changes for a club that scored four runs in three days against St. Louis and is averaging 2.9 runs over its last dozen games.
“It’s frustrating. We’re just not doing the things we’re capable of doing,” Johnson said. “Guys are trying to do too much. (Ian Desmond) looked like he was trying to hit the ball to the light tower. Little things where guys are trying to create something that’s not there yet.”
“It’ll change, but I’m going to have to jumble things up a little bit,” he added. “Try to light a fire.”
Johnson’s players seemed open to the idea of giving that a shot.
“If it works tomorrow, then it works,” second baseman Danny Espinosa said.
The Nationals went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position Wednesday, after falling behind 3-0 in the first inning as Stephen Strasburg (1-4) lost his fourth consecutive start. It’s the longest such stretch of the All-Star ace’s young career.
The game’s very first batter, Matt Carpenter, got it started against Strasburg by stretching a single into a double when Bryce Harper’s throw to second base was bobbled and fell to the dirt.
One out later, Matt Holliday singled. Carlos Beltran walked. Then Yadier Molina delivered a two-run single. And a throwing error on Daniel Descalso’s fielder’s choice grounder padded the score.
Just like that, 23 pitches in, the Cardinals had a lead that would hold up.
“It was good to get on Strasburg early,” Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma said. “That’s what we were trying to do from the get-go, before he starts to settle in.”
Jaime Garcia (2-1) allowed a run on Harper’s sixth-inning groundout, but otherwise added to the offensive struggles of the Nationals, who have lost six consecutive home games while falling to 10-11.
Trying to generate something for Washington’s slumbering offense, Desmond bunted for a base hit with one out in the second. He then stole second and advanced to third on a flyout to the warning track. But rookie third baseman Anthony Rendon struck out to end the inning.
Strasburg actually was the one who got Washington going at the plate, grounding a single up the middle to lead off the sixth. Denard Span followed with a single, and Werth’s groundout moved the runners up for Harper. He grounded out to second, but at least that got Strasburg home with a rare run to make it 3-1.
A walk to Tyler Moore ended Garcia’s day after four hits in 5 2-3 innings. Righty Joe Kelly entered to face Desmond, who struck out swinging and flung his bat and helmet.
In the seventh, a pair of singles put runners at the corners with one out, but Kelly got out of that jam when pinch-hitter Lombardozzi struck out and Jhonatan Solano, taking off from first on a hit-and-run, was thrown out at second by catcher Molina.
Werth’s fourth homer, a solo shot to left off Trevor Rosenthal with one out in the eighth, gave Washington its second run. But that was too little to stop the Nationals from dropping below .500 for the first time since finishing the 2011 season 80-81.
“Somebody said last night it feels like we’re 0-20, but it’s not that bad. We’re only one game under .500, and it’s April. We’ll be all right,” Werth said. “What we’re going through, it’s the first time this team has dealt with expectations, and there’s something to be said about that. But we’ll adjust. The league has adjusted to us, we’ll adjust to the league.”
NOTES: The Nationals are hitting .235 as a team with a .299 on-base percentage and .402 slugging percentage. ... Washington is 1-8 against teams that entered Wednesday with winning records this season. ... Washington begins a four-game series against visiting Cincinnati on Thursday, when Nationals LHP Gio Gonzalez (1-1, 5.85 ERA) faces RHP Bronson Arroyo (2-1, 3.54).