Before Thursday's game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, manager Davey Johnson said he felt good about the team and where they were despite being shut down two games in a row.
But following an 8-1 loss in the series finale, the Nationals look back on three games where the offense could not put three hits together. Washington slapped four doubles in Thursday's game, but never could get back-to-back hits. Michael Morse had the lone RBI single in the seventh.
"It is disappointing," Johnson said. "We match well with that ball club. I thought we should have swung the bats better the whole series, really. I give a little credit to that pitching staff, but I think we had a little let down. The last three days we have scored only three runs. That ain't too good."
So with mild concern about the longevity of the starters and the status of a couple of relievers (Ryan Mattheus - shoulder; Henry Rodriguez - struggles), the No. 1 problem to tackle this weekend in Cincinnati is the status of the offense.
Johnson has said the team has worked very hard on getting guys on base in front of the 3-4-5 hitters all season long and are still working to find that consistency. Ian Desmond has had his moments as the leadoff man, but Rick Ankiel has struggled batting second. Many times, the rally has started with Ryan Zimmerman or Morse getting the first hit of the inning and there would already be two outs.
Johnson said the offense, or the lack of timely hits, will be a major discussion point at Great American Ball Park. and that he will speak individually with every hitter this weekend to focus on the team's offensive struggles.
"A lot of it is we just didn't go after it," Johnson said. "I will have conversations with everyone on this ball club offensively on this road trip. We are better than we showed. We took a lot of third strikes. We took pitches we could drive. We weren't doing much."
And this is again one of those turning point moments in a season (even with just 33 games remaining) where the Nationals have gone in reverse when faced with adversity in the past.
Nationals pitcher John Lannan believes that the quiet bats won't last in Cincinnati and Atlanta because this team is different this season.
"I don't think this team is going to fold over," Lannan said. "I think we are going to finish the season strong. We will not let these games affect us. We know that we faced pretty good teams here. We came out .500. It is not what we want, but it is not the worst. Things could be much worse. We are playing good ball and we will turn it around."
Now it is their chance to prove it.