Playing in the National League East is hard enough by itself, so a team needs to take full advantage of everything. The Nationals did for the first part of the season, but as of late they have been as bad as can be.
Since May 18th, the Nationals are 2-9 including sweeps from the Mets and Brewers. The only intra-division games in that stretch were the two against the Mets. Although they did take two of three from both Florida and Atlanta before the cold streak, they had previously been swept by the Phillies and later lost a series to the Marlins. With that, since May 12th they are 4-12.
If you look at the scores of each of those games, you’ll see that except from falling apart against Milwaukee, most losses only come by one, two, or three runs at most during that stretch. How does a team win one run games rather than lose them? Well let’s take a look.
Being a baseball player myself, I know nothing irks coaches and fans more than backwards Ks. I’ve seen so many times watching the Nats this year that they can get guys on base, steal bases, but they can’t hit them in. It seems as if the big power hitters expect pitchers to throw the ball over the white of the plate, and the umpires to not the pitches on the black. Especially with runners in scoring position, a ball in play, even if it’s not a clean hit, can result in defensive mishaps allowing runners to advance and/or score.
Jim Riggleman, I believe, has done a fantastic job managing the Nats. His aggressive style puts the Nationals in great position to win games on a daily basis. He is not afraid to steal, hit and run, or squeeze; you name it-he’ll do it. But the team hasn’t been rewarding him when it is necessary. Matt Stairs was picked up this offseason to help with late game heroics, but frankly I would rather have Jason Marquis pinch hit with the way Stairs has not been producing.
It might also be a little bit of bad luck that is hindering the Nationals. When one guy is in a hot streak, others can’t hit them in. If Rick Ankiel walks and steals, no one can advance him or score him. So when will this come to an end? We will just have to wait and see. Ryan Zimmerman is still out after having surgery to repair an abdominal tear, and right now Ian Desmond is cold at the plate. Michael Morse is just beginning to heat up while Jayson Werth has stayed solid.
One thing not to worry about too much is the bullpen. Every team has their bullpen struggles every year, but this year Nationals have a fairly solidified bullpen. Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard, and Drew Storen have been reliable for Washington, so it is not the bullpen causing these recent woes.
At the Memorial Day checkpoint the Nationals are 22-30, nowhere near the division leading Phillies with whom they are currently in progress. Michael Morse homered earlier and Livan Hernandez squeezed in Jerry Hairston. But Philadelphia has just taken the lead on back to back home runs and an RBI single.