SAN DIEGO -- At this early stage in the season, the Padres are trying to play a more complete game.
The offense has struggled. So has the defense. The pitching has been solid at times, though walks were an issue in their 7-2 loss to the Nationals on Wednesday afternoon at Petco Park.
The National League East-leading Nationals (14-4) scored four runs in the seventh inning and a run in the eighth to blow open the game. Off to their best start since moving to the nation's capital, the Nationals have a chance to sweep the three-game series against the Padres (5-14) on Thursday night.
"Offensively, we have to pick it up," Padres manager Bud Black said. "We've got to pick it up defensively. We've pitched OK. We've hurt ourselves on some walks. The whole aspect of improving the team offense, improving the team defense, the critical walk has come back to bite us. Getting all those things in sync, I think the results will be there once that happens."
One positive is the progress of starting pitcher Joe Wieland. Black said he's seen the 22-year-old right-hander grow more comfortable in each start. In his third Major League start, Wieland allowed two runs and five hits in six innings. He struck out four and walked three (one intentional). His ERA is 4.76.
"I'm not seeing the anxious body language that I saw the first couple starts," Black said. "I like the fact his velocity was up a little bit today. He threw some good curveballs later in the game.
"Joe continues to make strides. It's a process. Hopefully, [he] keeps building on these and eventually breaks through and gets a Major League 'W.' It's coming."
The Nationals took a 1-0 lead after Adam LaRoche and Rick Ankiel hit doubles off Wieland in the second inning. After Wieland intentionally walked Roger Bernadina, Washington starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann hit a two-out single for a 2-0 lead.
"Overall, it was good. I just made one mistake to Zimmermann, on that curveball up," said Wieland, who fell to 0-3.
Wieland was also pleased he had a scoreless 1-2-3 first inning after struggling early in his previous two starts. In his Major League debut against the Dodgers, he gave up four runs in the first inning. In his second start, the only run he allowed was in the first inning against the Phillies.
"After those two first two innings at Dodger Stadium, I was pretty comfortable since then," Wieland said. "I've had no nerves. I've just been going out and doing the same thing I've been doing the last couple years."
As for Zimmermann (1-1), he held the Padres to one run and four hits in six innings. He struck out six and walked none. The one run came on Orlando Hudson's first home run of the season, a two-out shot to cut the lead to 2-1 in the fifth inning. The home run snapped the Nationals starting pitchers' 26-inning scoreless streak, which passed the previous Nationals record of 24 innings.
"Orlando had a couple good swings," Black said. "It was good to see him go deep."
The Padres finished with seven hits. Yonder Alonso had their only multi-hit game, going 2-for-4, with two doubles. Before Hudson's home run in the fifth, the Padres had one hit -- an Alonso double in the second inning.
The Padres scored a run in the ninth, when Mark Kotsay singled, Alonso doubled to put men on second and third, and Cameron Maybin's groundout scored Kotsay.
"We've gotta bunch our hits together," Black said.
The Nationals broke the game open with four runs in the seventh inning. With runners on first and second, Josh Spence relieved Luke Gregerson and issued a walk to pinch-hitter Mark DeRosa to load the bases, before giving up a single to LaRoche that gave the Nationals a 3-1 lead. Micah Owings relieved Spence and issued a bases-loaded walk to Jayson Werth for a 4-1 lead. Wilson Ramos' two-run single pushed the lead to 6-1.
"Our walks obviously didn't help us," Black said.
Nationals reliever Tom Gorzelanny hit an RBI single in the eighth off Owings for a 7-1 lead.
"Today was a good day for us," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "We hit a lot of balls hard today. This is a big ballpark. I know at least three balls would have been way out in any other ballpark except here."
Sarah Trotto is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.