Nationals OF Bryce Harper vents after 11-1 loss to Tigers, saying team has to play with heart

The Washington Nationals are slumping and All-Star outfielder Bryce Harper is fuming

Alex Avila and Torii Hunter hit homers in a five-run second inning and the Detroit Tigers scored five more runs in the fourth inning of an 11-1 rout of Washington on Wednesday.

The Nationals have lost nine of 13 games since the All-Star break, back when they were a game over .500, to create a double-digit deficit behind the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves.

Harper wasn't on the field at the end of the latest setback because of a hip spasm, according to manager Davey Johnson, but he did have plenty to say after the game.

"You got to play with heart," Harper said. "You got to play as a family. Everybody's got to want it, starting with the manager on down — everybody. Everybody wants to win this and keep going. We need to get going and play better, hit better, have better ABs in certain situations and pitch better also. It's just something we need to do.

"We play the Braves nine games. This ain't over. I really don't think it's over. We just got to keep going, keep grinding and turn into the family that we were last year."

Detroit's Justin Verlander (11-8) shook off a shaky start by giving up one run, four hits and five walks while striking out six over six innings.

"We feel like we had a lot of good chances of getting to him all day," Washington catcher Kurt Suzuki said. "He made pitches when he needed to."

Gio Gonzalez, meanwhile, did not.

"I feel like I let the team down, especially when they needed that push to get over the hump," he said.

Gonzalez (7-4) gave up 10 runs — one short of his career high — and 11 hits — the most of his career — over 3 1-3 innings. He entered the game with 4-0 record and a 2.06 ERA in his 10 starts since his last loss on May 27.

"In three months, you're going to run into a hiccup," Gonzalez said. "It just happened to be against a good team."

Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth had a sacrifice fly in the first, driving in the only run for his team. Washington was held to one or fewer runs for the 30th time this season.

"I like my ballclub," Johnson said. "We have a lot of talent, just got to express it."

NOTES: Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty, a Detroit native, has been released from a hospital after being treated for an irregular heartbeat and high blood pressure and is expected to rejoin the team Monday. ... After an off day, Washington will open at series at Milwaukee on Friday night.