ATLANTA -- Before Thursday's game, Nationals manager Davey Johnson didn't hesitate when asked what improvements he would like to see the team make during the final month of the season. He said he would like to see the team's offense show signs of life.
Nothing changed by the time the game was over as the Nationals were defeated by the Braves, 5-2, at Turner Field. Atlanta took two out of three games in the series.
It was a game that saw right-hander Chien-Ming Wang make his seventh start of the season, and he had to be perfect to get the victory. He wasn't, and ended up with his third loss, going 5 2/3 innings while allowing four runs on seven hits. It was the long ball that did the major damage against Wang.
Wang acknowledged that he was behind in the count too often, which hurt him, starting in the early innings. The Braves were able to get to Wang in the first inning, when Brian McCann hit a solo home run. An inning later, Chipper Jones led off against Wang and added his own solo shot. It was Jones' 451st career home run.
"The biggest problem was that I wasn't getting first-pitch strikes," Wang said. "My sinker was up and I was behind in the count. I wasn't getting ahead."
Atlanta would make it a three-run game in the fourth inning after Dan Uggla touched home plate on single to right by Eric Hinske.
The good news was that Wang didn't have any problems with his right shoulder, which kept him out of action for two years.
"Everything is good," Wang said about his shoulder.
Right-hander Tim Hudson started for Atlanta, and the Nationals had him on the ropes early. In each of the first three innings, Washington had runners in scoring position but couldn't get the run home.
The Nationals' best opportunity came in the third inning. With runners on first and third with one out, Wilson Ramos came to the plate and hit into a double play to end the inning.
The only damage the Nationals were able to do to Hudson occurred in the top of the sixth inning. Jayson Werth swung at an 0-2 pitch and hit the ball over the left-field wall for his 17th home run of the season, a solo shot.
Hudson would last six innings and allow just the one run.
"I gave up the homer there to Werth, but when you've got a nice lead out there you want to try and make them earn it," Hudson said. "It just means he guessed right and I put it on a tee for him.
"Guys usually don't get great, great swings off of fastballs, 0-2, because you're in kind of a chase count. It was a pretty good pitch for him to hit and, obviously, it was a fastball and he guessed right. He got a pitch up in the zone and he didn't miss it."
Werth's homer doesn't hide the fact that the Nationals have been in a hitting slump all season long. Entering Friday's action, the Nationals ranked 27th in offense and second in strikeouts among all big-league clubs.
Werth, who was used to electric offenses when he was with the Phillies, does not have an answer as to why the Nationals haven't been able to hit all year.
"If we knew, we would do something about it. But it's the way of the world right now, unfortunately," Werth said. "It feel like it shouldn't be like that. It's frustrating, it really is. You guys see it, you are here every night. I'm sure you guys want us to get the hits as bad as we do. It makes it tough."
The Braves would add another run in the sixth off Wang to make it a 4-1 game. Uggla, who led off with a double, scored on a single by Alex Gonzalez.
After Hudson left the game, the Nationals had a chance to at least tie the score in the eighth inning off reliever Jonny Venters. They had the bases loaded with one out, but couldn't take advantage of the situation.
Michael Morse came to the plate and hit a soft grounder to Jones at third base. It looked like a perfect double play for Jones to make, but he bobbled the ball and all were safe as Jonny Gomes scored the second run of the game.
Jesus Flores and Danny Espinosa followed and struck out. Rally killed.
"I thought Flores has some pitches to hit. He is usually pretty good in those situations. We just didn't get it done," Johnson said. "It's been kind of the same song all year long, but we battled. We got to the point where we had a chance to do something. We just didn't do that."
The Nationals now head to Washington to play a 10-game homestand starting Friday against the Mets.
"We head home. We play well at home. Hopefully, we can win some ballgames and put some people in the seats," Werth said.
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.