Like I said: you can never predict what the Nats are going to do. In their past six games, they have lost to the Mets 11-0, defeated the Mets 14-1, and lost to the Tigers 11-1. The offense was AWOL again today, while Gio Gonzalez had one of the worst starts of his career. The happiness from their brief successful stretch is now gone. The Nats are 4-9 since the All Star Break, and trail Atlanta by eleven games in the decision. Things are getting more and more dire for the Nats, and Bryce Harper decided to sound off about it. Here are his comments.
“You have to have heart. You have to play as a family. Everybody has to want it, starting with the manager on down to everybody. Everybody wants to win this and keep going and what not. We need to keep doing that. We need to keep going, play better, get better, better ABs in certain situations and pitch better also. It’s just something we need to do.
“We play the Braves nine games.This s*** isn’t over.
“I really don’t think it’s over. So we have to keep going, keep grinding and try to be the family that we were last year. I’m not the one to speak on it. I try to be a leader, but I’m younger. I think there are things we can do better, and I think everybody knows it. We are a better team than we are showing now. We can’t worry about the Braves. We have to worry about staying out of fourth or fifth place… One game at a time. We have to play these last two months as if we will never play this game again.”
His frustration and his fire will hopefully inspire the rest of the team, if they don’t already share his sentiments. He is spot on, but can a team will themselves to contention even if everything is going wrong for them? Harper thinks the answer is yes, and he wants to show us.
Most Important Nationals Hit: Adam LaRoche‘s strikeout (-5.7%)
Early on in this game, the Nats had a real offensive chance. Against Justin Verlander, who has not been his usual self this season, the first three Nats reached base via two walks and a single. Jayson Werth gave the Nats a 1-0 lead early with a sacrifice fly, but LaRoche struck out with runners on the corners and one out. The out on its own is not so egregious, but Ian Desmond would make an out to end the inning and the Nats would turn a bases-loaded, no-out situation into just one run.
Most Important Nationals Pitch: Alex Avila‘s home run (-13.8%)
Shortly after the Nats blew their offensive shot, the Tigers made them pay for it. Three of the first four batters in the second inning got hits, and two of those three were doubles. The Tigers turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead, and they weren’t done. After hitting the decisive grand slam yesterday, Avila homered again today, a two-run shot that put the Tigers up by three. Avila is hitting .200 and has eight home runs on the season. Torii Hunter added a solo home run before the inning ended, making it 5-1.
Champ of the Game: Denard Span (+11.4%) made a triumphant return to the leadoff spot, going 2-3 with a walk and a run scored. It was the only triumphant thing about the Nats today, however. He and Harper had four of the Nats’ five hits. Avila (+14.4%) was 2-3 with two RBI, a walk, and two runs scored, but did most of his WPA damage with his home run.
Chump of the Game: Gonzalez (-42.9%) had an inexplicably awful start. His nightmarish line, if you’re into that: 3.1 IP, 11 H, 10 ER, 1 BB, 3 K. His ERA jumped 0.60 runs, from 2.97 to 3.57. Every Tigers starter had at least one hit, but Hernan Perez (-5.9%) was the only one who failed to score a run. He was 1-5, but had an RBI, unlike two other Tigers starters.