Nats Series Loss To A's Highlights Team's Many Issues

If you ask almost anyone around baseball, whether it be a player, analyst or even a casual fan, most everyone would tell you the Oakland A's are one of, if not the worst team in baseball. So what does it mean when the Nationals lose 2 of 3 to that team?
Washington Nationals v Oakland Athletics
Washington Nationals v Oakland Athletics / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

Let me preface this post by saying I think it is silly to put too much stock into a single regular season series matchup. Do they matter? Absolutely. But I also am smart enough to know that the better team does not always win the series. That is what is unique about baseball compared to every other sport. Baseball has double the amount of games as other playoff series format sports such as Basketball or Hockey. The sport is designed to weed out the pretenders and leave the strongest teams standing, but that does not mean that progression in the regular season is linear. Like anything, there will high points and low points.

When we reach the conclusion of the 2024 season, I don't think the Nationals will look back on this series versus the Athletics as a low point, but it certainly was not a high point.

The Nationals ultimately dropped two of three to the lowly Athletics, and showed why this team is still not particularly close to competing.

Game 1: Nationals lose 2-1 in Extra Innings

This was a bit of a script reversal for the Nats, as typically their starting pitcher puts them in an early hole that the offense more often than not cannot get out of in time before the 27th out is recorded.

Instead, Jake Irvin was fantastic for the team and delivered 6 innings of 1 run baseball with 2 walks and 5 strikeouts. The lone hit Irvin allowed was a solo shot in the third inning. That was nearly enough to hand Irvin the loss until Jesse Winker hit a solo shot of his own to tie the game before the A's eventually walked if off in the 10th inning. Irvin's start was the Nationals first quality start of the season - they were the only remaining team in baseball without one.

Many will point to Kyle Finnegan allowing the game winning base hit, but with the ghost runner on second rules for extra innings, most relievers are set up to fail in those situations. That is why MLB implemented it - to speed up the game.

Instead, the lack of production with runners in scoring position was the team's downfall, as they went 0-10 in those situations. While they did out hit the A's 8 to 3, they could not make their hits count.

Game 2: Nationals even the series at 1

This was obviously not a loss, but just wanted to highlight MacKenzie Gore's great performance and his strong start to the 2024 campaign. Gore recorded the win to move to 2-0 on the year and lowered his ERA and WHIP to 2.81 and 1.19 respectively.

Still, there have been many times over the past several years that the Nationals have spoiled good starts from their pitchers because they could not get enough run support - Josiah Gray was the recipient of this many times last season. It is a big reason why wins are a team stat, not always a pitcher stat. The Nats are lucky that 3 runs was enough, as more often than not it is not.

Game 3: The Nationals Bullpen Blows the Game

Surprisingly enough, Trevor Williams has not been awful to begin the year. He gave the Nationals more than a chance to win on Sunday, going 5.1 innings and allowing 3 runs while striking out 7 batters.

Instead, it was Davey Martinez's decision to use reliever Derek Law for the third day in a row that sunk the ship. Law is a fine arm, but not exactly the type of arm you use three days in a row. Law immediately got hit hard, allowing 4 runs in 0.2 innings of work and surrendering the lead. The subsequent 3 arms to pitch for the Nats did not allow a single run.

It is unfortunate as the Nats built a 6-1 lead and should have closed out the game. Instead the bullpen gave back the lead and the offense did not provide any additional support.


I only highlight this series to point out flaws within this team that go beyond the starting pitching, which we all know is generally below average and is in flux right now with Josiah Gray on the injured list, Joan Adon back and forth between the Majors and AAA, and Jackson Rutledge now banged up after taking a line drive off his leg. Things are so dire that Mitchell Parker is now making his major league debut against the Los Angeles Dodgers tonight... Godspeed.

Yes, the starting pitching is bad and will lose us plenty of games, with great starts sprinkled in. But as we saw in the A's series, the lineup is still struggling and the bullpen, which was considering this team's strength, has not been great so far this year.

Players who performed last year, like Lane Thomas and Kyle Finnegan, have really struggled to start the year. Joey Meneses is borderline unplayable.

Players who were brought in to help, like Joey Gallo and Eddie Rosario, have had their moments but are not doing enough to bolster an already weak lineup.

And of course, the questionable bullpen decisions that have followed manager Davey Martinez year after year still remain.

Basically, it is not just the starting pitching that is losing us games. It is a combination of everything from the lineup, to the bullpen to managerial decisions. There is a lot that needs to be figured out.

So this is all just to say that the Nationals are not a James Wood and/or a Dylan Crews away from competing. I know no one thought the Nationals would be a Wild Card team this season, but they seem much further from that then people care to admit.

It is certainly nice to see players like CJ Abrams, MacKenzie Gore and even Luis Garcia Jr. take that next step in their development and I am not trying to diminsh that, but a dose of realism is good. The Nationals are closer to the A's than they are to being a Wild Card team.