NEARLY A QUARTER of the way into the season, the Washington Nationals are hovering just two games above .500.
It's not exactly where the Nationals or their fans thought they'd be after winning the NL East last year at 98-64, the best record in baseball.
"We have not been very consistent," third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said after the visiting Nationals lost, 13-4, to San Diego yesterday as the Padres salvaged a split of their four-game series. "Part of that has been injuries, but you have to get past that. We just have to do a little bit more and collectively lift our games up."
Andrew Cashner pitched 6 2/3 strong innings and Kyle Blanks and Will Venable homered off Dan Haren to lead the Padres.
Cashner (3-2) struck out six and walked one. The Padres tied their season high in runs, and their 15 hits off four Nationals pitchers were two short of their season high.
San Diego's Yonder Alonso homered off Drew Storen leading off the eighth to finish 3-for-4 with two RBI and three runs.
The Nationals have lost six of nine.
"We've been hovering around .500. Win a few, lose a few," Haren said. "We're not healthy; that's one thing. Guys are banged up. We haven't hit our stride. Yet we have too much talent to just be playing this mediocre."
Haren (4-5) got off to a rough start by allowing three runs in the first inning and was gone after the fourth-run fifth.
"You have to have a lot of patience sometimes on this job," Nats manager Davey Johnson said. "The lineup is not swinging the bats very good. I like the way the pitching has been. Sometimes, it just takes time to jell."
At Atlanta, Ramiro Pena had a tiebreaking sacrifice fly in a four-run eighth inning, Jordan Schafer drove in two runs and the Braves rallied against the Los Angeles Dodgers' beleaguered bullpen for a rain-soaked 5-2 victory. Kenley Jansen (1-3) was the loser for the second straight game. The game was twice delayed by rain, for a total of 2 hours, 15 minutes.
Craig Kimbrel earned his third save of the series and 14th in 17 chances as the Braves earned their fourth series sweep this season.
* At Chicago, Daniel Murphy hit a tiebreaking home run in the eighth inning and the New York Mets beat the Cubs, 4-3, for their first series win at Wrigley Field since 2007. The Mets won two of three.
* At Miami, Ricky Nolasco struck out 11 and the Marlins stopped a season-high seven-game losing streak, holding off the Arizona Diamondbacks, 2-1.
The D-backs, who had won four straight, had the bases loaded in the ninth, but Mike Dunn got pinch-hitter A.J. Pollock to ground out on a 3-2 pitch to end it.
* At Denver, Juan Nicasio (4-1) scattered three hits over six innings, Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki each drove in two runs and the Colorado Rockies won their first series over San Francisco in 2 years, beating the Giants, 5-0.
* At St. Louis, David Freese had an RBI in a four-run fourth inning to go with big plays at third base, and the Cardinals beat former teammate Kyle Lohse (1-5) for the third time this season with a 4-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. John Gast (2-0) won his second straight start in place of the injured Jake Westbrook.
* At Pittsburgh, Jeff Locke (4-1) held Houston to three hits over seven innings, Pedro Alvarez homered and the Pirates won for the eighth time in 10 games, 1-0.
At Arlington, Texas, David Murphy's three-run homer in the sixth inning gave the Texas Rangers the lead for good in an 11-8 win over Detroit that featured three homers and five RBI by Miguel Cabrera in a losing effort. Cabrera, whose 4-for-4 lifted his batting average to .387, now has 11 homers and 47 RBI.
* At Minneapolis, Boston's John Lackey (2-4) held Minnesota to one hit over six innings before a 3-hour rain delay, Dustin Pedroia and Will Middlebrooks homered and the Red Sox beat the Twins, 5-1, for their fifth straight win.
* At Baltimore, Matt Moore pitched seven innings of five-hit ball to stay unbeaten, Luke Scott and Matt Joyce homered and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Orioles, 3-1, for a three-game sweep. Moore (8-0) has won nine straight decisions, breaking the franchise record of eight set last year by David Price.
* At Cleveland, Justin Masterson (7-2) struck out a season-high 11 in seven shutout innings and Michael Brantley homered and drove in four runs off Felix Hernandez as the Indians toppled yet another former Cy Young Award winner, with a 6-0 win over the Seattle Mariners. The Indians improved to 7-1 against Cy Young recipients, knocking off Hernandez, R.A. Dickey, David Price, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Bartolo Colon and Justin Verlander.
* At Oakland, Yoenis Cespedes hit a leadoff home run in the eighth inning and the Athletics beat the Kansas City Royals, 4-3, to complete a three-game sweep.
* At Anaheim, Jason Vargas (3-3) scattered four hits through seven scoreless innings, Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick each hit a two-run double, and the Los Angeles Angels coaxed a pair of bases-loaded walks out of Jake Peavy (5-2) in a 6-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
* At New York, the game between the Yankees and Toronto was postponed before it started. No makeup date was announced.