The season-long gripe about the Nationals is that they are a good-pitch, no-hit team. And, the question is: Where would the Nats be in the National League East if they had had even mediocre hitting?
The Nationals went into Sunday with a .227 average, which ranks next-to-last in the league, and 194 runs scored, which ranks 12th. A 17-run game in Baltimore boosted that ranking.
Ryan Zimmerman has been out since April 10 with an injury to his stomach muscle. Outfielder Jayson Werth hasn’t lived up to expectations, and neither has Rick Ankiel. Adam LaRoche didn’t hit, and now he’s disabled with a shoulder injury.
“We haven’t played our best baseball,” Nationals infielder Jerry Hairston Jr. said. “But, we have the chance to put it all together.’‘
Other good-pitch and no-hit teams echo those sentiments:
The Phillies’ rotation is as good as advertised, and the bullpen is stable, but will the return of Chase Utley give a big enough boost to an aging offense so that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. doesn’t have to make significant midseason trades? Amaro has said that he will trade for offense if it doesn’t improve.
It’s no surprise that the Marlins have a strong rotation and an improved bullpen, but where would this team be if Hanley Ramirez, the former NL batting champ, were hitting? Logan Morrison and Mike Stanton are two young players carrying the Marlins.
The Braves are waiting for a healthy Jason Heyward to return to the outfield, and they need power from their new second baseman, Dan Uggla. Last season, the two, with Uggla in Florida and Heyward in his rookie season for the Braves, combined to hit .282 with 49 home runs, 177 RBI and 183 runs scored. Heyward is on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, and the Braves aren’t sure when he’ll return. Nobody in Atlanta can figure out why Uggla’s hitting has dropped off.
The defending World Series champion Giants have scored 177 runs this season, but their pitching is keeping them in contention. Now, though, the Giants will have to move forward without catcher Buster Posey, who is out for the season with a broken leg. He was the Giants’ cleanup batter and a key to their title last season. Giants GM Brian Sabean says he has no intention of trading for another catcher, and wants to give Eli Whiteside a chance.
The Dodgers can’t score, but that doesn’t mean they are out of contention. They only want health, and they are starting to get it: Rafael Furcal hasn’t hit, but at least he’s back. The return of Marcus Thames and Juan Uribe will make a difference. If the Dodgers can find a steady left-fielder - they’ve used six so far this season - that will help. Rookie manager Don Mattingly reminds his team that the Giants won the World Series last season even though they were 40-39 on July 2.