Sox lose another close one

Caption
Washington Nationals left fielder Bryce Harper (34) celebrates with Ryan Zimmerman (11) after Harper's solo home run during the fourth inning of an interleague baseball game against the Chicago White Sox at Nationals Park Wednesday, April 10, 2013, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON – Every game the White Sox have played so far this season was tight.

Five were decided by one run. None by more than three, including Wednesday night’s 5-2 loss to the Washington Nationals.

One statistic that stood out from that latest close call: The Sox went 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position.

“We’ve had opportunities in a lot of games to jump out to either an early lead or tie some games up or blow a game open,” cleanup hitter Adam Dunn said, “but it’s the big hits that we’re really just not getting right now.”

Back in the lineup and playing left field after a day off with no designated hitter for an interleague series in an NL ballpark, Dunn came up with two men on in the first inning and drove home a run off Jordan Zimmermann (2-0) with an RBI groundout.

But the only other run the Sox pushed home Wednesday was with another run-scoring groundout, by No. 3 hitter Alex Rios in the sixth inning.

The game was delayed 16 minutes at the start because, the Nationals explained, the umpires got caught in traffic.

“I’ve been stuck in traffic many a time here in D.C. I’m surprised they got here as fast as they did,” Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond said with a smile. “It’s always an adventure here.”

Desmond had a triple and a pair of doubles, Bryce Harper homered and Danny Espinosa provided his first two RBIs of the season, helping the Nationals improve to 5-0 at home. Zimmermann limited the Sox to two runs and seven hits in seven innings.

“We threw a lot of fastballs inside,” said Zimmermann, who is 7-0 with a 2.91 ERA in his past 13 home starts, “and got a lot of broken bats.”

Johnson said the umpires “called in about 40 minutes before the game and said that they were a mile away, but it may take forever.”

He added: “Didn’t seem to bother Zim too much. Pitched a great ball game.”

Drew Storen pitched the eighth, and closer Rafael Soriano worked around a hit in the ninth for his fourth save in five chances.

Harper hit his fourth homer into the second deck leading off the fourth against Gavin Floyd (0-2), who allowed five runs and nine hits in 51/3 innings. Harper turned on Floyd’s first pitch of the at-bat, an 86 mph offering that never stood a chance. With a “thwack!” off the bat, the ball arced into the second deck beyond right field, and Harper paused for a moment to watch his shot before sprinting around the bases.

“Early on, he’s hacking. I think he’s one of the highest-percentage [hitters] early on, so you kind of know that and you’re making pitches,” Floyd said, “and my cutter didn’t cut like I wanted it to.”

That gave the Nationals 11 homers in their past four games, 15 for the season. The 14 entering Wednesday were a franchise record through a season’s first seven games.

Floyd struck out the next two batters, but then got into more trouble, giving up Desmond’s double and Espinosa’s single that gave Washington a 2-1 lead.

Every Nationals starting position player reached base at least once; the only one without a hit, Kurt Suzuki, walked three times.

“It’s a tough lineup,” Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “And when you get to that fifth or sixth inning, it’s hard to get through it again.”

Notes: Rios’ four-game homer streak ended. ... A smattering of applause from the crowd of 24,586 greeted the first announcement of Dunn’s presence in the Sox lineup. He played in Washington in 2009 and 2010. ... Sox pitching coach Don Cooper still is hospitalized with a stomach illness.

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