ATLANTA -- The Nationals played a night game Saturday at Turner Field that they would love to forget. Not only did they lose to the Braves, 6-3, they lost third baseman Ryan Zimmerman for four to six weeks with a fractured right thumb, sustained after getting picked off by left-hander Alex Wood at second base during the fifth inning.
With Zimmerman out, it means that starting second baseman Anthony Rendon will now play every day at third, while Danny Espinosa will be the starting second baseman.
"It's not our first choice, certainly. The fact that they can play multiple positions is good in times like this," manager Matt Williams said. "You certainly don't want to miss someone like Zim for that amount of time, but it is what it is. There is nothing we can do about it now except play."
The Nationals got off to a good start against Wood in the top of the first inning, when Rendon led off with his second home run of the season. But it went downhill after that.
Starting with the bottom of the first inning, Nationals right-hander Taylor Jordan had a tough time getting hitters out. He threw 31 pitches that inning as the Braves scored four runs. B.J. Upton highlighted the scoring with a solo homer. It didn't help that Jordan had a tough time with the slider to start the game.
"I wasn't hitting my spots, and they capitalized on that. It was a very tough first inning," Jordan said.
It looked like Williams would have to go to his bullpen early like he did already two times this week, but Jordan settled down and allowed one run over his next four innings. That run was scored in the fifth inning, when Justin Upton scored on a single by Dan Uggla.
"By the third inning, I started to get my slider back, and it was working for me a little bit," Jordan said.
It seemed, however, as if nothing else was working for the Nationals, who went 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position and lost a challenge on a close play at first base in the third inning.
With the Braves leading, 4-1, Rendon led off the third with a single before Nate McLouth followed and bunted the ball toward Braves third baseman Chris Johnson, who was ruled to have thrown out McLouth at first.
Williams then came out and challenged the call in a discussion with first-base umpire Angel Hernandez.
After the umpires reviewed the play, the call stood and the Nationals lost the ability to challenge any additional play or call in the game. Williams wasn't pleased.
"I'm extremely frustrated by the process at this point. If they are seeing the same feed we are seeing, I don't know how [McLouth] is out," Williams said. "So that is frustrating, because I thought he was safe. We looked at it 100 times and I believe he was safe. If that was a safe call, then we maintain our challenge."
Washington didn't do well defensively, making three errors, two of them by shortstop Ian Desmond and another by McLouth. They also made a couple of baserunning blunders. The biggest was Zimmerman's in the top of the fifth inning, when he was picked off and broke his thumb after doubling. Zimmerman argued with second-base umpire Paul Nauert over the call, but to no avail. Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons snuck behind Zimmerman to get the out at second.
"Well, we work on it in Spring Training," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "It doesn't happen very often, but when you've got a guy at shortstop who's not afraid to put it on, who's not afraid to do it, that was a key situation. I mean, that's second and third with [Adam] LaRoche at the plate, and all of a sudden you get the second out at second, and he was able to get LaRoche out and get out of the inning and also get a W out of it."
After he was picked off, Zimmerman looked at his right hand, grimaced and was slow to get up. He then slowly walked into the dugout and was taken out of the game. Rendon moved over from second to third base, while Espinosa took over at second base.
"It is what it is. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us," Williams said. "[Losing Zimmerman] is a big one, but we don't have a choice. We have to go play, compete and win games. We have to do that starting tomorrow."
Blake Treinan made his Major League debut after the Nationals purchased his contract from Triple-A earlier Saturday. The right-hander entered in relief of Jordan in the sixth and tossed two shutout innings, allowing two hits and striking out one.
The Nationals are now 7-4 to start the season. All four losses have been to the Braves.
"There is no finger to put on it," said Williams on the Braves having the Nationals' number. "The fact that they have beaten us these games is what it is. There are a lot of games left, so we need to play well to beat anybody. That's a function of us not playing up to our capabilities in the last couple of games and them doing well. That happens sometimes, but there are a lot of games left. We'll be ready for tomorrow."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.