The Washington Nationals (31-29) lost another one Thursday night in 6-5 fashion to the Milwaukee Brewers (23-38). The Nats have dropped eleven of their last fifteen, putting up a .267 winning percentage since the start of play on May 26. Sitting on the disabled list are key contributors Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Doug Fister, Stephen Strasburg, and Craig Stammen. Are the losses of these players seriously hindering the Nationals’ chances of contending?
With the players they have healthy, a complete Nationals lineup would include Bryce Harper, Denard Span, Michael Taylor/Danny Espinosa, Tyler Moore/Clint Robinson, Anthony Rendon, Ian Desmond, Yunel Escobar, and Wilson Ramos. This is a list of players perfectly capable of scoring plenty of runs. In fact,with how poorly missing pieces Werth (.208/.294/.287) and Zimmerman (.209/.265/.346) had been playing prior to their injuries, it may have been more of a respite getting them off the field.
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As a team, the Nationals are hitting .251, which 16th in all of baseball. Above that mark? Harper, Span, Escobar, Espinosa, and Ramos. Below? Desmond, Taylor, Moore, Robinson, Dan Uggla, Rendon (granted in only 7 games), and Jose Lobaton. This offense, headlined by its stars, is more than qualified to be considered one of the most fearsome in the league. However, players like Desmond and Rendon must rise to the occasion if this team wants to be playing in October.
As far as pitching goes, Strasburg (3-5, 6.55 ERA) and Fister (2-2, 4.31) had not been pitching to their best abilities either before hitting the shelf. Aces Max Scherzer and Jordan Zimmermann have rose to the occasion in their absences, but if Washington is going to win consistently, the rest of the staff must do so as well. Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark, A.J. Cole, and Taylor Jordan have all been up and down across the board.
Gio has struggled with consistency while Cole and Jordan were roughed up in each of their sole starts this season. Roark was lit up for five earned runs on Thursday night, raising his starter’s ERA to 5.40. Joe Ross pitched well in his MLB debut, taking the loss, but not deserving it last Saturday. Fister is set to return within the next week, but fans and analysts alike aren’t sure what to expect.
The bullpen has struggled mightily, sporting a 3.64 ERA. While the loss of Stammen before the season started was a big blow, nobody expected the relievers to be this bad. Besides Drew Storen, Matt Williams has not been left with many choices to bring in late in games during tight situations.
These injuries however, should not be hurting the Nats as much as they are. This is a talented club that is not playing to its capabilities. The players that trot out onto the field every day should go out there with the belief that they can take home the W. While many impact players may be sitting on the bench, this team can absolutely work through it.