Washington’s offense is about to be tested.
16 games into the season and the Nationals offense have yet to fully get going. One night, they are firing on all cylinders, blanking the Cardinals 6-0 and the next they are a mess, getting shut out two days in a row. Washington sits at 7-9, with a -20 run differential. Part of the offense’s struggles can be attributed to 11 players missing the first six games due to COVID. During that span, Washington went 1-5 and was outscored 27-16.
However, since the team has returned to full strength, Washington is 6-4, but was outscored 48-38. This was partly due to some terrible pitching performances. Joe Ross, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin each had a start where they allowed seven or more runs. It’s hard to win games when your starters don’t give your team a fighting chance.
While the team has started to win games, the offense will face its toughest challenge yet in the New York Mets starting rotation. The Mets will have Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, and Taijuan Walker on the mound during the three-game series. To make matters worst, Washington will be without superstar Juan Soto, who is on the 10 day IL.
New York’s Rotation
deGrom is starting tonight for the Mets and has been nearly untouchable to start the season. In three starts, he is 1-1, with a 0.45 ERA, 35 strikeouts, and a FIP of 1.35. Washington is hitting .234 against the ace, with Starlin Castro having the best success against him. In 36 at-bats, he’s hitting .306, with two RBIs, and five strikeouts.
Marcus Stroman and Taijaun Walker get the nod for New York on Saturday and Sunday respectively. In Stroman’s last start against the Rockies, he went eight innings, allowing only one run and striking out five. On the season, he is 3-0, with a 0.90 ERA, and 11 strikeouts. While deGrom is a power pitcher who racks up strikeouts, Stroman relies more on his defense. Walker is looking to put his last start behind him. Against the Cubs, he only lasted 3.2 innings. He allowed two runs and his pitch count was a factor early.
The Offensive Woes
The key to this weekend series will be Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber. Washington’s two biggest off-season acquisitions, they have struggled early due to their extended time off while on the COVID list. In 31 at-bats, Bell is hitting .161, with one homer, three RBIs, and an OPS of .573. His plate discipline has been off, seen by his three walks and 10 strikeouts.
Schwarber hasn’t fared much better, hitting .200, with one homer, two RBIs, and an OPS of .588. He has already racked up 14 strikeouts in only 40 at-bats. However, Schwarber already made his presence felt, hitting a walk-off bomb against the Diamondbacks.
Trea Turner, Josh Harrison, Yan Gomes, and Starlin Castro have been the team’s most consistent bats, but the problem for Washington hasn’t been getting on base. It has been taking advantage of runners in scoring position (RISP). In their last series against the Cardinals, the offense went 3-21 with RISP. With runs a premium against the Mets, the offense cannot afford to fumble any opportunities to drive people in.
With Soto out, and Max Scherzer unavailable, Washington is the underdog entering this series. But the Nationals always find a way to thrive when they are counted out.