Liz Barr: Finding the positives during a rough stretch for Nationals

The last month or so of Nationals baseball has been a little bit rough. It’s been tough for the team and tough for fans, and at times it’s been hard to watch. They keep finding new ways to lose, and it seems like there are never enough runs scored, they can’t get that big hit and there are always runners left on base. It’s frustrating.

But we can’t wallow in misery. If we only talk about failures and what the team isn’t doing right, we’re going to drive ourselves crazy. Yeah, things aren’t going great, that has been well documented and acknowledged. This team isn’t as good as they were last year, and there’s a chance they might not make the playoffs this year if they don’t turn it around. If you’re the type of person who wants to only think about the negatives all the time and berate this team endlessly for not playing well enough, go ahead. I feel like I’ve hashed it out every which way at this point, and I’ve addressed their shortcomings a number of times. I can complain about it and throw out suggestions all day (hit better, make some trades, etc.) but ultimately, this isn’t going to make me or anyone else feel better about the poor play.

So instead, I’m going to focus on the positives for now. Even when your team isn’t winning, it’s the little things that make baseball worth watching. The Nats have done plenty of little things worth mentioning and taking pride in.

Tanner Roark’s new facial hair? Absolutely epic.

Juan Soto, newly minted as National League Rookie of the Month, is setting the league on fire. On the year, he’s hitting .308/.421/.556, with eight home runs, 21 RBIs and an impressive 26 walks. He’s a delight to watch, and every time he steps into the box is appointment viewing. He could very well win National League Rookie of the Year and very much deserves and All-Star nod that he might not get.

Max Scherzer, despite horrendous lack of run support, is still putting up fantastic numbers and might be on his way to a third straight Cy Young Award (and perhaps also a Silver Slugger). Scherzer just recorded his 1,00th strikeout with the Nationals, a feat only accomplished before by Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez in Nationals history. His ERA is still a very nice 2.16, and he’s first in the NL in strikeouts (174), WHIP (0.87) and batting average against (.173). He hasn’t been as dominant as he has in the previous months, but he is still doing a fantastic job. The team just needs to get this man a win.

And finally, Anthony Rendon has been having a standout year. When a lot of the Nats’ hitters seem to be tensing up and maybe trying too hard, Rendon remains as cool as a cucumber. He’s hitting .289/.354/.530, which is amazing among Nats standards. He also has a 12 home runs and 37 RBIs. He’s not crushing the league, but he’s hitting consistently and he’s not constantly trying to hit home runs, which is refreshing to see. Ultimately, he’s the guy I want up at the plate in big situations because he’s the hitter I have the most confidence in right now. It would be great to see him get into the All-Star Game for the first time, though I know how far-fetched that idea might be, what with Rendon’s tendency to shy away from the spotlight and some otherworldly third baseman named Arenado elsewhere in the NL.

Things aren’t fantastic for the Nationals right now, but there are still reasons to tune in and watch games and root for the team. It’s frustrating that they can’t seem to find a way to win, but we can’t give up. Find the good in the game. They definitely won’t improve if we completely give up on them.

Liz Barr blogs about the Nationals for The Nats Blog. Follow her on Twitter: @RaiseTheBarr1. Her opinions on the Nationals will appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. 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 roster of writers.

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