WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Davey Johnson was looking to find some answers with a revamped lineup and one of his promising young pitchers on the mound Saturday against the Orioles.
The lineup showed signs of life, but the Nationals could not overcome Ross Detwiler's worst outing of the season in a 6-5 loss to the Orioles in front of a bipartisan crowd of 42,331 -- the second largest crowd ever at Nationals Park.
Washington will try to avoid a three-game sweep in the Battle of the Beltways when ace Stephen Strasburg takes the mound on Sunday. The Nationals have yet to take a lead in the series, and have lost three consecutive games.
"[Detwiler] was throwing the ball good, but the problem was they were getting on his fastball," Johnson said. "He didn't use both sides of the plate tonight. He didn't locate. I'm always proud of this ballclub, but I'm especially proud today -- the way we battled back tonight."
Detwiler allowed a season-high six runs on nine hits, including two home runs, with three strikeouts and a walk. It was the most runs he'd allowed since Sept. 2, 2011. He fell to 3-3 on the season and his ERA rose from 2.75 to 3.65.
"I put the team in a hole early; they did a great job trying to dig out," Detwiler said. "It was just too much too early. I really didn't have command of anything. The entire game was just terrible."
Even though Detwiler struggled, pitching has carried Washington so far this season. The Nationals lead Major League Baseball in ERA (2.98) and strikeouts (349). After the Orioles chased Detwiler, the Nationals' bullpen did not allow a run.
Johnson moved Steve Lombardozzi into the leadoff spot and dropped Ian Desmond to fifth in the hopes of sparking the offense. Lombardozzi responded with two hits and an RBI, and Desmond went 1-for-4. Ryan Zimmerman also went 3-for-5 with a homer in the ninth that cut the margin to one.
After this series, the Nationals embark on a nine-game road trip against National League East rivals.
"Anytime you lose the first two and salvage a game, it's kind of a momentum swing," Zimmerman said. "Hopefully, [Strasburg] will pitch well and we get him some support early."
Baltimore's Jason Hammel allowed four runs on six hits with two walks and five strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings.
The Orioles took a 2-0 lead in the second on a two-run single by Robert Andino with two outs. Baltimore increased its lead to 4-0 an inning later on Adam Jones' team-leading 14th homer of the season.
Baltimore led 6-0 in the fifth on another two-run homer by Nick Markakis. The Nationals' bats then began to show signs of life, as Lombardozzi's single in the bottom half of that inning got them on the board. A double by Rick Ankiel, groundout by Carlos Maldonado and single by Roger Bernadina in the sixth then cut the margin to 6-4.
"We have some guys who are swinging the bat really well," Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper said. "It's just a matter of time before we get it going. We're a team that will never give up and we always battle to the ninth."
The Nationals threatened again in the ninth on Zimmerman's homer, but that was as close as they could get, as the Orioles' bullpen, ranked first in the majors with a 2.08 ERA, closed the door and Jim Johnson picked up his 15th save.
"They strung together a lot of good at-bats," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "It wasn't anything we were doing. They did some really good things there with a good batting order. You knew they were going to make a run at us regardless, and our bullpen allowed it to stand up."
Todd Karpovich is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.