WASHINGTON -- The Nationals hoped to capitalize on their return to Washington and the excitement generated by teenager Bryce Harper's home debut.
After losing four in a row on the West Coast, Washington continued its slump at home. The Nationals have scored only seven runs during their skid and were mired in a run of 17 consecutive scoreless innings before the eighth. They went 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position and stranded five against Arizona.
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Washington manager Davey Johnson let out an audible sigh and said, "I feel like we've got the hitters that can hit. Not as aggressive as I'd like to see. We're not getting a good strike and driving it. I know that talent is there. ... It's going to put a strain on the pitching staff if we don't start scoring some runs."
Jordan Zimmermann (1-2) gave up four runs, three earned, in 6 1/3 innings. In four of his five starts, Washington has scored one run or fewer while he was on the mound.
"I can't really speak for the offense," the right-hander said. "I just have to go out there and pitch the way I can pitch."
Harper went 0 for 3. The No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft is 2 for 9 since being recalled from the minors on Saturday.
Arizona starter Trevor Cahill (2-2) allowed one run and six hits in 7 1/3 innings, striking out five and walking one. Arizona starters are 4-0 with a 1.30 ERA over the past five games.
"We kind of build on one another," Cahill said. "Hitters say hitting's contagious. Maybe pitching's contagious, too. ... After the first month you kind of get into a groove, and when everyone's throwing like they are, you kind of build off one another. So it helps out a lot."
Harper received enthusiastic applause from the crowd of 22,675 when he stepped to the plate for the first time in the second inning. The 19-year-old struck out on four pitches, missing badly on his three swings, but the crowd cheered again as he walked back to the dugout.
In this next at-bat, Harper grounded out on a 3-2 pitch in the fifth. He also grounded out in the seventh.
Harper did, however, play well in left field. After Jason Kubel led off the second with a double, Harper fielded a single and threw a no-hopper to the infield to keep Kubel at third. One inning later, Harper sprinted to the line to make a fine catch of an opposite-field liner hit by Gerardo Parra.
Even better, Harper threw a 300-foot, no-bounce dart from left field to the plate on a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning and barely missed getting the runner.
"I just thought I had a shot," Harper said. "Reared back and gave it my all. That's what I try to do, make plays like that."
Gibson, a former outfielder, said, ""It kind of surprised me. We knew he had a solid arm, but it was a pretty impressive throw."
The kid also impressed Upton, who also made his major-league debut at 19.
"It's fun to watch," he said. "It's fun to see him finally get called up, with all the hype and going out and enjoying the game. He looks like he's having fun out there, and that's what it's all about."
Arizona got runners at the corners with one out in the second inning before Zimmermann struck out Cody Ransom and retired McDonald on a twisting liner to right field.
The next time the Diamondbacks got a runner in scoring position, they didn't waste the opportunity. Paul Goldschmidt reached second on a throwing error by Desmond from shortstop and McDonald delivered an RBI single to left.
Arizona made it 2-0 in the sixth. Upton singled and stole second before Montero hit a two-out, run-scoring double.
Limited to a pair of hits through five innings, the Nationals began the sixth with singles by Desmond and Steve Lombardozzi. But Rick Ankiel hit into a double play and Adam LaRoche bounced out meekly to second.
Upton singled in a run in the ninth.
- Kubel, who was sidelined by an illness Monday, returned to go 1 for 4. He has hit safely in 12 of 13 games.
- Johnson said 3B Ryan Zimmerman (shoulder) began throwing Tuesday, will begin to hit this weekend and could be ready to come off the disabled list Sunday.
- Hill has reached base in 18 consecutive games.