Washington Nationals: Time for the stars to deliver

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WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 06: Anthony Rendon #6 of the Washington Nationals reacts after striking out against the Chicago Cubs in the 8th inning during game one of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park on October 6, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 06: Anthony Rendon #6 of the Washington Nationals reacts after striking out against the Chicago Cubs in the 8th inning during game one of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park on October 6, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) /
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After a rough Game 1, the Washington Nationals offensive stars need to have a big day in Game 2 to save their season

Despite a great pitching performance from Stephen Strasburg in Game 1, the Washington Nationals offense didn’t do much against the Chicago Cubs hitters. The last 25 hitters who came to the plate went 0-for-22 and only three batters reached base after the second inning.

Now, you have to give a lot of the credit to Kyle Hendricks for shutting down the offense and keeping them off balance with the use of his changeup. But, on a night where Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo drove in all three runs for the Cubs, the heart of the order for the Nats did absolutely nothing.

If the Washington Nationals are going to win this series, then their top five hitters in the order have to be better than the 1-for-18 that they were last night (Bryce Harper’s first inning single being the only hit).

You can criticize Dusty Baker’s moves all you want, but in the end, its up to the players that have to get the job done. Personally, I think Baker said it best with this comment after the game:

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Last night, it was Anthony Rendon‘s fielding mistake that was under the microscope. It was bad luck for Rendon to make his first error since July 22 at the most inopportune time. Rendon’s error in the sixth as Strasburg was throwing a no-hitter allowed the Cubs to get the first run, but he’s still one of the best defensive third basemen in the league.

The Nats best offensive chance last night was in the fourth inning after Daniel Murphy walked on four pitches. Ryan Zimmerman got ahead in the count 2-0, but then grounded into a double play. Zimmerman’s struggles against the Cubs over the last two years have been well documented, so it is up to him to change those numbers.

So, how do you fix the lineup? It isn’t as simple as benching Zimmerman or Jayson Werth. Zimmerman has been one of the best players on the team this year, so benching him would be the wrong thing to do and Werth is still one of the veteran leaders on the clubhouse. Now, if you want to take him out at the end of the game for defense, that’s a different story.

One thing that can be changed is where Harper hits in the order. While he’s been hitting second in the order, the Nats need to find ways to manufacture runs before getting to the heart of the lineup. Of course, if Trea Turner can’t get on base, then it is actually a moot point.

Heading into tonight’s Game 2, it is pivotal that the Nats find a way to get a lead early and keep the crowd in a positive mindset. Of course, that is easier said than done when going up against a proven postseason pitcher in Jon Lester. Plus, the Nats only scored four runs in two outings against the left-hander this year.

Next: Mistakes doom Game 1

The Washington Nationals were one of the best offenses in baseball this year. With that being said, it is very tough to win a best-of-five series if the offense doesn’t click right away. If the Nats want to head to Wrigley with a split and their ace on the mound in Game 3, then the offense needs to deliver in the biggest game of the year.

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