David Huzzard: Nats need role players to step up

Wilson Ramos is lost for the postseason, Stephen Strasburg will miss the series against the Dodgers, and Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy are dealing with nagging injuries. To say the Nationals are entering the postseason not in their best shape is an understatement. In order to make a deep playoff run, the Nationals are going to need some guys to step up.

This isn’t uncommon for the postseason and the Nationals have been on the receiving end of it. Joe Panik and Pete Kozma are far from household names and stars in the game of baseball. If the Nationals are going to make it past the Dodgers and to a showdown against the Cubs/Giants/Mets/Cardinals, they are going to need players like Jose Lobaton, Stephen Drew and Chris Heisy to play Kozma and drive a dagger into the hearts of Dodgers fans.

The lineup is still full of productive players like Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner, but those two by themselves aren’t going to get the job done. Jayson Werth is a man that knows his skillset and can work a pitcher and take a walk. He’s perfect for batting in the second spot in the order, but the Nationals are going to need someone to drive him in, and with Murphy and Harper beat up, that player simply may not be there.

There is one player that can get hot and carry an offense for a month. Danny Espnosa’s overall batting line of .209/.306/.376 is far from inspiring confidence, but he is a player that can get on a ridiculous hot streak as he did in June when he batted .309/.418/.704. Those are numbers that could change the Nats’ postseason fortunes for the better.

It is unlikely that Espinosa repeats his June or is able to deal with the Dodgers pitching at all, but he has had a hot streak like that before and he can do it again, and that is what the Nationals are going to need to make it past the first round for the first time in history. Espinosa, Rendon, Turner, Werth and Ryan Zimmerman are all capable of hot streaks and anyone of them could be the force that drives the Nats forward on offense, but there is the other side of the ball.

With Strasburg out, the Nationals are going to need a pitcher or pitchers to step up. Max Scherzer and Tanner Roark are plenty capable of holding their own, as we’ve seen all season, but after that, there is little to inspire confidence. Either Joe Ross or Gio Gonzalez is going to be the No. 3 starter in the postseason, and the Nationals either need them to be good or be yanked early and the bullpen to be lockdown.

The postseason is more often about who is hot at the right time and not who has the better team. Right now the Nationals are the underdog, but if they get a few players hot at the right time, they are fully capable of beating anyone in the playoffs. It is just going to have to be with players we weren’t expecting it to be.

David Huzzard blogs about the Nationals at Citizens of Natstown. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHuzzard. His views appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our regular roster of writers.

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