WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Matt Williams must be wondering what he has to do to get a victory these days. On Tuesday night, he decided to change the lineup, giving Adam LaRoche the day off and starting Tyler Moore at first base, because the Angels had left-hander Tyler Skaggs on the mound.
Williams even moved third baseman Anthony Rendon to the cleanup spot and had second baseman Danny Espinosa hit second in the order. Williams' moves didn't work, though, as history was made at Nationals Park when Albert Pujols collected his 500th career home run and helped the Angels roll past the Nationals, 7-2.
The game started off badly for Washington, as Los Angeles scored four runs against right-hander Taylor Jordan in the first inning. After J.B. Shuck led off with a double, Mike Trout reached base on an error by Rendon to put runners on first and third.
Pujols was the next hitter, and he worked the count to 1-1 before he hit a monster three-run homer over the left-field wall for his 499th career home run, giving Los Angeles a 3-0 lead. Chris Iannetta added to the score later in the inning with an RBI single.
"The first inning, I was up in the zone. They took advantage of that. It was just up," Jordan said. "[Pujols] hit a changeup. It wasn't a bad pitch. I don't think it was really up in the zone."
The Nationals made it interesting by cutting the lead in half off Skaggs in the third. With the bases loaded and Espinosa at the plate, Sandy Leon scored the first run for Washington on a wild pitch by Skaggs.
After Espinosa was hit by a pitch to reload the bases, Jayson Werth hit into a double play, but Jordan, who singled earlier in the inning, scored Washington's second run.
Jordan pitched five innings, allowing six runs -- four earned -- and struck out five batters. His last inning was a historical one, for he allowed a two-run homer to Pujols, the 500th of his career. Pujols received a curtain call from Nats fans for the achievement.
"It's a pretty special moment," Pujols said. "You don't see 500 home runs every night. [It has] been [a] great career. Thank the Lord for giving me power and strength to play this game. Last couple years have been really tough, but I feel I'm getting my swing right where I want it to be."
Jordan said he put too much pressure on himself not to give up the historic home run.
"The 500th home run, that pitch was supposed to be low and away," Jordan said. "I guess I tried too hard to get it there. We did three consecutive fastballs there. I was really trying to get that ball where I wanted it, and left it over the middle of the plate."
One has to wonder how long Jordan will be in the rotation. In his last three starts, he has allowed 14 earned runs in 15 1/3 innings. Williams could put Ross Detwiler back in the rotation until Doug Fister returns to the team next month.
Asked if he would consider putting Detwiler back in the rotation, Williams said, "We have to see where Doug is at, certainly. That's important for us. We've all known that for some time. Would we ever consider [adding Detwiler to the rotation]? Of course we would consider it, but not because of tonight."
But it's more than just the pitching that is giving the Nationals problems. They continue to have problems on defense, which is the worst in the Major Leagues. Williams doesn't have any answers as to why the Nationals can't catch the ball.
"I'm baffled," Williams said. "We just keep doing what we are doing. We keep working at it, and we work at it every day. We do extra, we do all those things."
Even Werth is baffled by the slow start.
"The bottom line is, we have to play better," Werth said. "We are giving away some games. It's funny, because we play good at times. We've come back, we've played good from behind. We are finding ourselves behind quite a bit. It seems to be most of the time due to defense. … It seems like we are not getting timely hitting or timely defense. We are not getting timely pitching. When that happens, it's tough to win games."
Williams tried to take advantage of a replay review in the eighth inning but was unable to get the call overturned.
After doubling down the left-field line against left-hander Jerry Blevins with one out, Los Angeles' Erick Aybar stole third and was ruled safe by umpire Jordan Baker. Williams challenged the call, putting the play under review, but the umpires ruled that the play would stand as called, meaning the video was inconclusive.
"I thought we would maybe catch a break there," Williams said. "We are in that inning, we haven't used [the challenge]. It was a situation where we can use it. It was inconclusive, might as well use it."
Aybar would later score on a sacrifice fly by David Freese to make it a 7-2 game in favor of the Angels.
The Nationals are now a game over .500 with an 11-10 record.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.