While the Cardinals own the best record in baseball, the Nationals are 2 1/2 games behind Philadelphia in the NL wild-card race. Washington has won at least two games in a row just twice since the All-Star break and has dropped from first to last in the NL East.
The main reason for the Nationals’ fall has been their lack of offense. Washington is batting just .252 with a .390 slugging percentage and 505 runs scored, all last in the majors.
Jose Guillen, who went 0-for-3 in Saturday’s 6-0 loss, is batting a team-high .301.
“I just can’t figure this team out. I really can’t,” manager Frank Robinson said. “The more a pitcher struggles, or the higher the ERA is, the worse we do.”
Robinson was especially annoyed with his players’ lack of energy on Saturday, something that wasn’t the case during Friday’s 4-1 win.
“That’s what I don’t understand,” he said.
The Cardinals hope to give the ball to Mark Mulder on Sunday. The veteran left-hander was scratched on Saturday due to a stiff neck. Mulder said he wasn’t exactly sure how he got hurt but said he hoped to be able to start Sunday.
“Compared to what it was yesterday, it’s 100 percent better, but it’s still not good enough,” Mulder said Saturday. “I still can’t quite look far enough to pick up the catcher.”
Manager Tony La Russa said if Mulder is unable to pitch Sunday, the most likely candidate for a spot start would be reliever Brad Thompson, who had four days off before throwing one inning on Friday.
Mulder has allowed only one earned run in 17 innings over his last two starts. He’s given up two runs or fewer in eight of his last nine outings.