Washington Nationals shake up lineup to try to break losing streak

Steve Lombardozzi enters the lineup for Washington on Thursday in place of Anthony Rendon. Photo: Alex Parker

Losers of five of their last six and coming off a three-game sweep at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals, it appears the Washington Nationals can't wait to get out of their funk.

As the team prepared Thursday afternoon, for the first of a four-game series against the Reds, manager Davey Johnson says many of his players - including the slumping Adam LaRoche - went onto the field much earlier than usual to take batting practice.

Johnson said he'd never seen so many guys out to hit so early.

The Nationals have lost five straight games, including their last 6 straight at home, and are 10-11. The recent funk has dropped Washington under .500 for the first time since finishing the 2011 season 80-81.

Their early season swoon already has the Nationals, who are aiming to defend their NL East crown, five games back of division-leading Atlanta.

As promised, Johnson has made some changes to his lineup. Steve Lombardozzi will play third base, replacing rookie Anthony Rendon, who has been filling in for the injured Ryan Zimmerman. Lombardozzi will bat second.

Johnson said that he's had some sleepless nights, but added that those are commonplace when managing a baseball team.

The Nationals open their series with Cincinnati Thursday night at Nationals Park. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.