The Nationals have something to play for this season, which would be achieving a winning season.
Accomplishing that goal would indicate progress for this organization after years of lousy baseball. The future is already bright as it is with the team featuring young cornerstones contributing this season, but a winning season would get fans excited about the Nationals next season. It’s something to strive for.
Can the Nationals accomplish that? That remains to be seen. Quite honestly, it’s going to be hard to do.
Last night could be a sign of things to come. The Nationals did not get off to a great start, which Livan Hernandez struggled to get the Braves out, and Ian Desmond and Mike Morse committed errors in a 11-1 loss.
The Nationals’ offense has been feast or famine for most of the season. Their starting pitching has been great, but they will not sustain this in the second half. The bullpen has been overused, so the relievers will struggle by August.
There are also questions about Davey Johnson’s managing that could result to losses.
Looking at all that, that can’t be encouraging once the team plays in September. Already, the Nationals look like they are getting exposed after a nice two-week stretch in June that ended with Jim Riggleman’s abrupt resignation.
The Nationals did not have a good homestand before the All-Star break commenced. They split with the Pirates, failed to sweep the Cubs and lost a series to the Rockies. In that homestand, their relievers struggled, and they could not hit.
If that is not a sign of things to come, what is? One can say the team had a bad few days, but their struggles on offense have been an issue during April and May. In that regard, it’s understandable for anyone to be concerned.
Jayson Werth’s struggles have been well-documented. History says he will do well in the second half, but there’s no guarantee it will happen. He seems to be beaten down with the boos heading his way at Nats Park, and he overanalyzes too much when it comes to hitting. He expects to fail when he is hitting.
Let’s be honest on Ryan Zimmerman. He has done nothing since being activated from the disabled list. It takes time for a hitter to get his swing in order, but there’s no guarantee he will get it straightened out. It’s hard for a player to recover from an injury in midseason. It takes one full year for him to recover from it.
Roger Bernadina, Danny Espinosa, Ian Desmond and Wilson Ramos have had their ups and downs, but in a long season, they may be hard-pressed to put on good numbers.
Mike Morse had an excellent first half. He hit the ball with 15 home runs to show for it, not to mention he delivers often with runners in scoring position. That said, he may have a hard time sustaining it. This is the first time he is playing everyday, and eventually, pitchers will figure out how to pitch to him.
Looking at the hitters, there are question marks all across the board.
The starting pitching is why the Nationals entered last night’s game at 46-46 to start the post-All-Star break. The starters put the team in a position to win tight games by pitching well and going deep in games.
That said, it’s hard to believe Jason Marquis and Hernandez will keep this up. Those two will eventually get hit hard based on their history. Their ERA has been high, and they are going to give up big innings. They have been mediocre for awhile now, so eventually, they will be exposed for what they are.
Last night, Hernandez threw batting practice in the first inning, which resulted the Braves scoring four runs. He finished the night by giving up three earned runs (six runs) and eight hits in four innings.
In his last outing, he played an integral role in blowing an 8-0 lead, which the Nationals eventually lost to the Cubs, 10-9. He gave up six runs in the sixth inning after having an 8-0 lead to work with.
Hernandez starts off well in the first half, but in the second half, teams feast on him. His last two outings is a trend of things to come.
There are other obstacles in that starting rotation, especially with two of their best starters not pitching in September and one being medicore in September.
Jordan Zimmermann has been great all year, but he is on an innings limit, so his season could end by the end of August or before.
John Lannan gives the Nats good outings, but he will give bad outings, too.
There is talk of Stephen Strasburg coming back in September, but if the Nationals are eight games below .500, it’s hard to believe they will use their meal ticket for meaningless games. There’s no need to risk injury with him.
The bullpen has been overused all season. Eventually, Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen are going to be ineffective. Their middle relief has been nothing to rave about, so they are going to blow games.
Davey Johnson demonstrated that he can’t manage pitchers. He leaves pitchers too long until the game is out of reach. He likes to let his pitchers work through jams, but at some point, he has to find someone who can protect the lead.
Johnson’s managing has been a problem, and that has put the team backwards instead of moving forward by winning games.
After watching last night’s game and seeing signs of what’s going on with the Nationals, it’s hard to be encouraged about this team’s drive to .500.
Look for the Nats to win 76 games this year at best.