Washington Nationals must improve with runners in scoring position

ddouglas
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 21: Bryce Harper
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 21: Bryce Harper /
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The Washington Nationals’ offense has struggled to begin 2018, but their collective slump has been exaggerated with runners in scoring position. That must change.

As the Washington Nationals have learned, baseball is a game of momentum. They have struggled to gain momentum early in 2018, hence their slow start.

One of the biggest momentum-shifters in baseball is the ability to hit with runners in scoring position. If you come through with a clutch hit, your team likely scores, which is obviously a good thing.

On the other hand, if you fail to produce a run with runners in scoring position, it can be a momentum-killer.

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Unfortunately, the Nats have struggled mightily with runners in scoring position early in 2018. Through their first 26 games, they have hit just .231 with runners in scoring position, good for fourth-worst in the National League.

The Nats’ failure to produce with runners in scoring position was on full display during their loss to the Diamondbacks on Friday night, when they went just 2-for-9 as a team.

In the fourth inning, the Nats had bases loaded with one out for Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman. The Diamondbacks had just tied the game in the top half of the inning, but the Nats had a perfect opportunity to regain the lead.

To make the situation even more favorable for the Nats, the Diamondbacks were forced to pitch to Harper. He had already walked twice, but the Diamondbacks had nowhere to put him with the bases loaded.

Unfortunately, Harper struck out and chased several pitches out of the zone. Then, Zimmerman grounded out to squander the opportunity to regain the lead and some momentum.

By the end of the night, the Nats were handed yet another one-run loss. The Nats have lost seven of eight games decided by one run, which is partially due to struggling with runners in scoring position.

Fortunately, there is reason to believe that the Nats will return to form. Several key players, such as Adam Eaton, Anthony Rendon, and Daniel Murphy, are currently injured, which has led to depth players coming to bat in clutch situations.

The Nats also hit .290 with runners in scoring position last year, which led the National League. This is almost exactly the same team from a year ago, so there is reason to believe that the early results are not an accurate representation of their ability.

Next: Ryan Zimmerman and Matt Adams should platoon

Weird stuff happens in baseball all the time, which is why it takes 162 games to determine the best teams. The Nats have been a frustrating bunch to watch, but they will right the ship in due time.

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