Inability to produce clutch hit haunts Nats vs. Cleveland

Even with though he was struggling with his command, Stephen Strasburg gave the Nationals a chance. But in the end, the offense could not deliver the clutch hit, and the Nationals fell 2-0 at Cleveland on Sunday.

The Nationals had no outs and runners on first and third in the sixth, but could not score. A Ryan Zimmerman strikeout and an Adam LaRoche double play groundout ended the threat.

In the seventh, the Nationals loaded the bases with nobody out. Jhonatan Solano lined into a double play and Roger Bernadina grounded out to end the threat.

It is a theme that has plagued the Nationals offense throughout the first two and a half months of the season: the inability to come up with the game-changing hit.

“We had the right guys up there, we just didn’t get the job done,” said manager Davey Johnson on MASN’s “Nats Xtra.” “We played it real conservative, trying to get a run in the seventh inning. We made some baserunning mistakes. It is just a frustrating day all the way around.”

Johnson said the Nats had to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them on offense, but time in and time out they could not get that crucial base hit.

“When we had runners on third base with nobody out we just didn’t score,” Johnson said. “That is frustrating. We have to be able to do that if we are going to do anything this year.”

The Nationals were 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position, and neither of those hits scored runs. Cleveland was able to turn three important double plays to extinguish scoring chances.

In the series, the Nationals managed just 17 hits and eight runs. As has been the case more often than not this season, the starters kept them in the game but the offense did not deliver. On Friday, Gio Gonzalez allowed one run on three hits in a 2-1 Nationals loss. On Sunday, Strasburg’s uneven performance surrendered just one run in a 2-0 setback.

Until the Nationals get the offense going, the starters are going to leave the mound without the decision they deserve. That is the biggest problem the team faces as it head to Philadelphia back square at the .500 mark.

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