PITTSBURGH -- Hitting coach Rick Eckstein acknowledged that it didn't sit well with him that the Nationals couldn't take advantage of scoring opportunities in a 4-2 loss to the Pirates at PNC Park on Wednesday night.
It was a game in which the Nationals left 10 runners on base and struck out 11 times, all swinging. The last two innings were the most frustrating to watch.
With the Nationals down, 3-2, they had the bases loaded with one out, but both Danny Espinosa and Rick Ankiel struck out to end the threat.
Then down by two runs an inning later, Washington threatened again, this time against closer Joel Hanrahan. The Nationals had runners on second and third and one out, but Bryce Harper popped up to Clint Barmes at short and Ryan Zimmerman struck out to end the game.
"It never sits well when you don't take advantage of those opportunities," Eckstein said. "It's what it is. It's time to look forward."
It seems simple, what the Nationals have to do to get their offense back on track.
"You just have to get a pitch to hit and don't miss your pitch," Eckstein said. "Fouling it straight back into the screen or swinging through it doesn't get it done."
The Nationals have preached to their players about being aggressive at the plate, but Eckstein would like to see the players shorten up on their swing.
"To be aggressive, if a guy is throwing the ball to the back screen, you definitely want to make him throw it over the plate before you start honoring that," Eckstein said. "But overall, those are lessons you have to learn. Sometimes you have to go through it to learn them, to understand the situation. They are fighting. They are putting it all out there. It's just putting it together every day. It has been our challenge."
The offense has been a challenge all season. Entering Thursday's action against the Pirates, the Nationals are 24th in the Major Leagues with a .236 batting average. They also have a .310 on-base percentage.
Moore has his manager's confidence in left
PITTSBURGH -- Nationals manager Davey Johnson decided to start outfielder/infielder Tyler Moore in left field on Wednesday after having a talk with third-base coach Bo Porter.
With left field being so spacious at PNC Park, Johnson wanted to make sure Moore could handle the position. Porter, who is also an outfield coach, helped Moore make the transition from first base to left field.
"I asked, 'Is it too roomy for a converted first baseman who doesn't have a lot of games out there?'" said Johnson. "[Porter] said he was comfortable with it, so I'm comfortable with it."
Since he joined the Nationals on April 29, Moore has been coming off the bench. In five big league games entering Wednesday's action, Moore was 2-for-7 (.286). Moore, who is ranked No. 14 on MLB.com's list of Top 20 Nationals prospects, was hitting .286 with seven home runs and 20 RBIs for Triple-A Syracuse before getting recalled.
In 2010 and 2011, Moore hit a combined 60 home runs with 201 RBIs for Class A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg.
"Tyler Moore has a lot of potential. We have to put him in the lineup. He has been sitting an awful lot," Johnson said. "So he is in [the lineup]."
Asked how Moore has handled being a bench player in the big leagues, Johnson said, "I think he has been exemplary. He has had some good at-bats. He has had an awfully good Minor League career. I hate to bring a kid up and not play him. I haven't handled that situation very [well]."
Johnson also indicated that Moore could get more playing time in the future, but he wants to see how Xavier Nady and Roger Bernadina perform. They are expected to see a lot of action because Jayson Werth is expected to miss at least 12 weeks because of a broken left wrist.
Johnson knows Espinosa will come around
PITTSBURGH -- Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa continues to struggle at the plate. Entering Wednesday's action against the Pirates, Espinosa is 19-for-102 (.186) with a home run and two RBIs, and leads the team in strikeouts with 37.
Manager Davey Johnson admitted that he is concerned about Espinosa because he is swinging at too many pitches out of the strike zone. But it doesn't change the fact that Johnson believes Espinosa is still a talented player. Johnson doesn't have any intentions of benching Espinosa.
"He is chasing balls that are not in his comfort zone," Johnson said. "That's when you start pressing. I've had a lot of conversations with Danny, but I think he is an unbelievable talent. If anybody is going to break any records that I set [Johnson's 43 home runs in 1973 is the all-time record for a second baseman in a single season], he would probably be one of them.
"I told him, 'I have higher expectations of you than you probably do. And he said, 'No, that's not true.' I know he has the confidence, I know he has the ability. I's just a matter of time."
After Tuesday's 4-3 loss to the Pirates, in which he struck out three times, Espinosa decided he needed to clear his head and not think about the past.
Espinosa realized he was beating himself up mentally. He says all he needs to do is just see the ball. He has been overthinking too much about the mechanical parts of hitting.
"I just said, 'I can get it done, too. I'm too talented to not get it done,'" Espinosa said.
Nationals right-hander Chien-Ming Wang, who is pitching for Triple-A Syracuse on Wednesday, will get one more start with the Chiefs before he returns the Major Leagues. The team has not decided what Wang's role will be once he is activated from the disabled list. Currently, Ross Detwiler is the fifth starter and is having a solid season. In five starts entering play Wednesday, Detwiler is 3-1 with a 1.59 ERA.
Manager Davey Johnson is hoping that relievers Drew Storen and Brad Lidge are on rehab assignments by the end of May. Storen had a bone chip removed from his elbow, while Lidge is on the disabled list because of a sports hernia.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.