Gavin Floyd started strong but faded against the Nationals. AP PHOTO
WASHINGTON -- Gavin Floyd was wonderful his first time through the Washington Nationals lineup on Wednesday night. The second and third times? Not so good.
That's not going to cut it against one of the better lineups in baseball.
"It's tough to get through them three times,'' Sox manager Robin Ventura said, "but as a starter that's kind of what you need to do to get us to that point, otherwise you wear the bullpen out for the whole trip.''
The Nats scored in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings against Floyd, sending the White Sox right-hander to the showers in the sixth inning and holding on for a 5-2 victory.
Ventura had to call on Nate Jones for the fifth time this season, and Donnie Veal for a fourth appearance. Fifth starter Dylan Axelrod, basically a six-inning pitcher until proven otherwise, has the assignment of preventing a sweep by the Nationals (6-2).
"The starters have to be able to get through that sixth inning,'' Ventura said.
The Sox (4-4) are 0-2 in their series here, which opened a 10-game road trip that continues in Cleveland and Toronto. Floyd struck out seven through four innings, an indication his top-level stuff was good.
"His velocity is fine,'' Ventura said. "Maybe the command he needed to have he didn't have in the middle.
"That's a tough lineup. You can go through it one time, maybe twice, but they're tough that third time through. They score any time but it's the over and over again that gets guys.''
Bryce Harper hit a cut fastball from Floyd "that didn't cut the way I wanted it to'' for a home run, Floyd said, to lead off the bottom of the fourth inning. That tied the score at 1, and Ian Desmond doubled and scored on Danny Espinosa's single to give the Nationals a 2-1 lead.
Desmond tripled leading off the sixth and scored on Espinosa's double. Espinosa scored on Denard Span's single through shortstop Alexei Ramirez, who was playing in to cut off the run but couldn't handle Span's sharply hit one-hopper. That made it 5-2, and starter Jordan Zimmerman pitched a scoreless seventh before the Nats bullpen took care of the rest.
Adam Dunn and Alex Rios drove in the Sox runs by grounding out with runners on third against Zimmerman, who held the Sox to two runs over seven innings.
With runners in scoring position, the Sox were 0-for-5.
"We've had opportunities in a lot of games to jump out to either an early lead or tie some games up or blow a game open with big hits that we really aren't getting right now,'' Dunn said.
"Especially early. We had second and third one out and we only get one. Again, he [Zimmerman] has to make a living too. He's out there battling and he made some good pitches, man. He's pretty good.''
Floyd was good for a while. And then it got away.
"It's something to look at, re-evaluate,'' Floyd said. "Maybe different location would be better. But I felt pretty good out there. Early on, I was cruising and then one hit after the other and tried to keep making pitches.''