Washington Nationals Rapid Reaction: Lack of offense spoils Joe Ross’ solid debut

3 of 4

Jun 6, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals shortstop

Ian Desmond

(20) reacts after striking out to end the seventh inning against the Chicago Cubs at Nationals Park. The Chicago Cubs won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Offense Nowhere to be Found (Again)

While there are plenty of positives to take from Ross’ MLB debut, the offense wasn’t nearly as impressive. Lack of production at the plate has been the biggest culprit behind the Nationals’ recent struggles, and last night’s loss was no exception.

The Nationals managed just five hits yesterday and scored both of their runs on solo homers—one from Wilson Ramos in the second inning and another from Bryce Harper in the ninth. The lineup simply had no answer for Cubs starter Jason Hammel, who allowed just two runs on five hits while striking out seven over eight strong innings.

It was a rough day up and down the lineup for the Nationals. Denard Span, Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond all went hitless and combined to strike out five times. Zimmerman’s 0-for-4 showing dropped his batting average to .213 as his season-long slump at the plate continues.

While Hammel certainly deserves credit for a great pitching performance, the Nationals helped him out by swinging at pitches outside the zone, as manager Matt Williams told MLB.com after the game:

"“They were swinging at the ball out of the strike zone. You have to hit strikes against him, and we swung at some balls out of the strike zone today,” Williams told MLB.com. “Strikes, quality strikes are important for us to hit. If we swing at balls out of the zone, you don’t get hits.”"

Yesterday’s debacle was the most recent in a string of poor offensive performances for the Nationals. Over the last nine games, the Nationals have scored two runs or fewer six times. Not surprisingly, the team is 2-7 over that span.

While the offense has been struggling, there’s no reason to panic. The team has already shown it can produce at the plate and is still in first place. But if the Nationals want to stay atop the NL East for the foreseeable future and achieve its goals this season, the offense has to improve.

Next: The Positives