Having just won a series against the Florida Marlins -- another somewhat surprisingly good team -- and just finishing off a long but successful road trip, it would seem a home stand against a mediocre team like the Washington Nationals would only help the Arizona Diamondbacks keep their hot streak alive.
Alas, the team's recent formula for success (quality pitching + timely hitting + come-from-behind theatrics) failed them during Thursday night's series opening game, a 6-1 loss to the Nats. Starter Zach Duke, after looking solid in his first start of the season, gave up three runs in the first inning to put the team in an early hole and the D-backs had trouble scoring against Jordan Zimmermann, who went seven innings while allowing only one run. It was only the Nats' first win in their last six away games.
Just to ensure any possible heart-racing comeback was squashed, D-backs reliever Aaron Heilman gave up another two runs in the top of the ninth, an inning that included a walk and a batter tagged with a pitch. Heilman finally dug himself out of a messy situation with only one out and batters on first and second.
Recent hot-hitter Kelly Johnson went 0-for-3 and energy-infuser Ryan Roberts could not make anything happen during his at-bats. The team as a whole went hitless in eight plate appearances with runners in scoring position.
The loss, combined with the San Francisco Giants' 12-7 win over the St. Louis Cardinals, sent Arizona back into second place in the National League West, a half-game behind San Fran.