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Desmond picks up his 14th steal of the year

NEW YORK -- The Nationals' offense continues to struggle as they were blanked by the Mets, 3-0, at Citi Field on Wednesday night. It marked the sixth time the Nationals have been shut out this season.

It was raining most of the night, but Nationals manager Jim Riggleman didn't use bad weather as an excuse for the lack of hitting. The Nationals were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. They continue to be the worst hitting team in the Major Leagues. Washington has a .225 batting average entering Thursday's action against New York.

"There are no excuses," Riggleman said. "We are playing defense, [we are] pitching, but we just haven't been on track [hitting-wise]. I really don't have an explanation for it."

Third baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. may have an explanation for the lack of hitting.

"It may be a combination of a couple of things," Hairston said. "The weather hasn't been that great, outside of maybe a couple of days. We have a couple of guys who are historically pretty good in the second half. ... This is May 18. We have a long way to go and hopefully catch fire."

One of those players who has a reputation of hitting in the second half is first baseman Adam LaRoche, who is hitting .177 for the season. In the first inning, with left-hander Jon Niese on the mound, Washington had runners on first and second with two outs, but LaRoche flied out to Carlos Beltran in right field.

In the eighth inning, Ian Desmond was on third base when LaRoche couldn't get enough of a Jason Isringhausen pitch and flied out to center fielder Jason Pridie to end the inning.

"I feel like I'm close one day and not the next," LaRoche said about his slump. "It's getting frustrating trying to find it. Obviously, I've learned how to get out of it. I wound up OK. I just haven't figured out how to get on the right track and that's the frustrating part. For whatever reason, I feel like if I get going, I think other guys fall in and start hitting, too."

LaRoche wasn't the only one who was unable to come through with two outs. Washington's best chance to score came in the top of the seventh inning. It was raining hard and the Nationals had the bases loaded against Niese. Roger Bernadina was ahead in the count, 3-0. Two pitches later, the count was full, and three pitches later, Bernadina grounded out to first baseman Daniel Murphy to end the inning.

"I've never pitched in something like that," Niese said about throwing in the rain. "That's the wettest I've ever been pitching. Every ball that the umpire gave me just was soaking wet. I just kept trading them out until I got a dry one, and even then, it was still kind of wet. It was tough to get a grip on the ball, but I made sure the ball was dry before I pitched.

"I just wanted to throw it over the plate and throw a strike. Especially in those conditions, I knew [Bernadina] was going to take until he got two strikes just because of the conditions that were out there. Fortunately I battled back and threw a cutter that he rolled over to Murphy."

With the offense nonexistent, left-hander Tom Gorzelanny had to be perfect on the mound, but he wasn't. He found himself behind in the game in the first inning, when Jason Bay hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Jose Reyes.

The Mets added to their lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, when Justin Turner drove in two runs with a double over the head of Bernadina in center field.

"It was a bad pitch," Gorzelanny said. "I hung a slider right down the middle."

Gorzelanny battled for 5 2/3 innings and allowed three runs on eight hits. He struck out seven batters and walked five. Gorzelanny said the rain didn't affect him on the mound.

"I was inefficient, getting behind guys real early," Gorzelanny said. "That what happens when guys start sitting on pitches and you starting putting yourself deep in counts. ... I had to fight my way through it. I feel I did a decent job except the one pitch, and I paid for it."

With the loss, the Nationals dropped their record to 20-22.

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