Washington Nationals Rapid Reaction: Live and Die by Inconsistency
The Washington Nationals got their daunting 10-game road trip started with a 5-4 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals Friday night.
Early in any given season, out-of-division matchups with no obvious long-term effects can hide some key importance below the surface. The first of a three-game series in St. Louis for the Nationals is a great example of one of those games — following a puzzling sweep at the hands of the Philadelphia Phillies, and preceding nine more consecutive games on the road, Washington had to find a way to pull this one out.
Whether it’s been management or a breakdown in veteran performance, the Nationals teams of the past four years have lived and died by inconsistency. A beautiful streak, like last year’s string of 10 wins in a row filled with walk-offs, was followed by losing streaks filled with games like the recent Phillies series.
Unfortunately, the low times seemed to come around just as playoff time hit. This is a common sentiment among Nationals fans; we all know about the talent on this team and how it struggles to come together at the right times.
Stephen Strasburg‘s dominant seven inning, nine strikeout, two earned run performance was a pleasure to watch. He’s now 4-0 this year. Since the middle of the second half last season, he’s been one of the most consistent members of this squad, and is starting to resemble something of an ace.
Michael Taylor and Danny Espinosa were key contributors to the victory. These are two players who have long been mired in inconsistency at the plate, and wins like these often come when these players break out of a slump. Taylor hit a leadoff home run, and Espinosa drove in two with a home run in the fourth off of Cardinals starter Mike Leake.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Werth’s sac fly gives the Nats a 3-2 lead. Before today, Nats hadn’t lead since the 16th inning on Sunday.</p>— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) <a href=”https://twitter.com/JamesWagnerWP/status/726219400303370240″>April 30, 2016</a></blockquote>
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The start of the season looked great —a 14-5 record — but the team’s weak spots have since been exposed. It’s hard to win key games often when players perform this inconsistently throughout the lineup. It’s rare when seven hitters have a great day at the plate at once; most often, the area of the lineup that can get his seems to flip-flop each night.
How can this be fixed? The problem seems to have stumped the organization. It’s been happening for years. But tonight’s game is a good example of a key win when some things just don’t go the team’s way.