On Sunday, the Washington Nationals fell 6-3 to the Chicago Cubs. It was their third loss of the four games series, and their eighth in their last ten games. They’ve been playing some of their worst baseball of the season and are starting to resemble the team that began the year in a rut rather than the team who was supposed to contend for a World Series title.
So, what seems to be the problem this time?
Once again, it’s offense. The Nationals have shown over the course of their skid that they can’t put runs on the board. Sure, the starting pitching has been mediocre at best, and the bullpen has been shaky, but the team has consistently failed to get hits. Over the first week of June, the team is hitting just .240/.294/.349.
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While the addition of Anthony Rendon, who returned this week from his injury, should help to get the Nationals offense back on track, there’s still other questions lingering around much of the Nationals lineup. Yunel Escobar, who has been one of the team’s best hitters after coming over in an offseason trade for Tyler Clippard, has missed time with wrist soreness. Denard Span, hitting .292 on the season, left the game on Sunday and he may miss time due to a back issue.
Not to mention the current players who are struggling at the plate or in extended slumps. Ryan Zimmerman has looked lost at the plate at times, hitting an abysmal .213/.270/.353 on the season. Ian Desmond‘s average is down, as are his power numbers, while he continues to strikeout at the same maddening pace.
The list goes on and on, and Sunday’s woes at the plate were just the latest in a series of offensive ineptitude. The team managed just eight hits over nine innings; they failed to draw so much as a single walk. For a team that wants to go deep into the postseason, those numbers are unacceptable. They’ve failed time and time again to get on base, and when they are, they aren’t bringing them in. The Nationals only stranded six runners Sunday, but that was more a testament of their inability to get on base than anything else.
Hopefully, Denard Span‘s early departure in the game Sunday isn’t cause for concern. Hopefully, Anthony Rendon‘s presence stabilizes the lineup and gives them a little bit more confidence at the plate. If not, Bryce Harper‘s bat won’t be enough to drag this team to its first postseason series win, even if he manages to get them into October at all.