Washington Nationals: Small ball carrying offense into October

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 28: Ryan Zimmerman
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 28: Ryan Zimmerman /

A shortage of power has not dampened the Washington Nationals offense. With three home runs in a week, the Nats have a stranglehold in the NL East.

In this new era of the home run, the Washington Nationals have hit three over their last eight games.

Yet, with a record of 5-3, the Nats scored over five runs in six of those games. The reason? A return to the small ball and more patient approach at the plate.

Before the return of Jayson Werth and Trea Turner, Washington worked on stealing bases and bunts. It is rare any team has as many triples as homers over a week, but the Nats have three three-baggers.

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The constant barrage of injuries took their toll on the offense. Even with this renewed push, the Nats slash line of .251/.315/.393 are all monthly season lows. Yet, walks and stolen bases are up from July. One more win before the calendar changes will make August tied for the winningest month of the year with 17.

Since the All-Star break, Washington is 28-15. A .651 winning percentage wins you a ton of ballgames.

Although you can look to stronger starting pitching and a revamped bullpen, the bigger changes come from not swinging as much for the fences but forcing action to happen.

Losing Bryce Harper a few weeks ago zapped the main power bat out of the lineup. Daniel Murphy and Ryan Zimmerman have tried their best to stabilize the offense but, along with Anthony Rendon, their mantra is put the ball in play.

Helped by Howie Kendrick and a resurgent Matt Wieters, the Nats doubled their hit count from the week before. Heading into Tuesday’s win over Miami, Washington collected 66 hits in seven days. As a team, they slapped 33 the week before. An impressive jump when you consider they struck out an equal 56 times while drawing two less walks this week.

With Michael Taylor’s return, the team swiped six bases over the last seven days and 17 total this month. Any time you add pressure to opposing pitchers, good things happen.

As Werth and Turner adjust to playing in the majors again—along with Harper’s return before the end of the regular season—the Nats will regain their power stroke. But, their ability to thrive without the long ball makes Washington more dangerous come the playoffs.

Good teams beat you in a variety of ways. Washington carries outstanding starting pitching, a strong bullpen, power to all fields and a team that likes each other. When you add the ability to force runners along, they move into the elite of baseball.

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A quick glance at their record proves it.