By no means am I saying it is time to panic. The Washington Nationals have played just seven games so far and a 2-5 stretch means next to nothing in the grand scheme of things. However, this last week has highlighted some areas of concern on the team, and they have hit hard.
Being blown out 9-4 is never something you want. But maybe, just maybe, this will get the team going. The team looked terrible yesterday. They were dropping balls, missing throws, hitting batters, and managed just four hits offensively. This is not the fundamental baseball that Matt Williams has preached since managing this team.
For me, it all starts with Ian Desmond. We all know the number at this point (five errors in seven games), and it hasn’t been pretty. Granted Desmond was never a gold glove shortstop, but a stretch like this hasn’t happened from him since his rookie season in Washington. Desmond is a leader on and off the field for the Nats, and it is important for him to set the tone. Often when he struggles, so does the team.
This was highlighted in the second inning when with one out and nobody on, Xander Bogaerts reached on a throwing error from Desmond. Two batters later, Mookie Betts homered to make it 4-0 and the game felt out of reach just two innings in.
Once Desmond turns things around, which he will, the team will follow. But this is something that has to happen soon, and hopefully did yesterday afternoon in Boston. Nobody needs to add pressure on the team. They know what is at stake this season and the hype that surrounds them, but the play needs to change.
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This has not been one of those unlucky starts where a ball gets through here or there and they are 5-2. The team hasn’t played well in a single game thus far and the only bright spots have been the starting pitching. However, there will be days like today when the starters don’t have their best stuff. On those days though, the defense has to step up. Fly balls dropping between outfielders is back breaking for any pitcher, especially when you are already struggling.
It certainly is not the time to worry. The Nats will be just fine down the road, but if these defensive woes persist, a healthy lineup will be enough to turn things around.
Last season, the Nationals set a franchise record by going 97.2 innings without an error. They weren’t always making the flashiest plays, but they were making the routine ones and that was enough. The best thing about baseball is that everyday is chance to start a new streak. Maybe the 9-4 beat down will be the motivation needed to start a new errorless streak and I would predict that a win streak would follow suit.