Nats’ bats slow to wake up

CHICAGO - I’m still not used to being in the Central time zone after living in the mid-Atlantic region my whole life.

I wake up here and look at my phone, which says one time, then open my computer, which says another.

Yesterday, I knew the game was a 2:20 p.m. start, but it didn’t kick in that first pitch would actually be at 1:20 p.m. local time until I was getting ready to hop in the shower.

It’s that damn East Coast bias, getting in the way again.

I’m guessing that your perspective coming out of the Nationals’ 2-1 win over the Cubs yesterday all depends on what your mindset was entering the game.

If you went into opening day ultra-concerned about the Nationals’ offense and their ability to produce runs this season - especially with left fielder Michael Morse on the disabled list - then you probably found yourself frustrated with the lack of noise from the Nats’ bats yesterday.

Washington managed just four hits yesterday afternoon, three of which came from leadoff hitter Ian Desmond. If you take Desmond out of the picture, the Nationals’ other seven starting position players combined to go 0-for-23 with eight strikeouts and were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position yesterday.

That’s not so good.

If you went into the opener feeling a bit more optimistic about what the Nationals will be able to manage offensively this season, you might have a different vibe this morning.

You might feel that if Davey Johnson’s bunch can lean on their strong pitching and continue to scratch out timely hits and walks (thank you, Kerry Wood) in big spots, then things might be just fine this season. You might notice just how nasty Cubs starter Ryan Dempster was, and take solace in the fact that if yesterday’s game was played in nearly any other major league stadium, Ryan Zimmerman probably hits two home runs.

I think it’s clear that the Nationals will not be scoring double-digit runs all that often this year. They have seven guys with legitimate 15-homer power, but that potential is minimized by consistency issues with the vast majority of those seven players.

The big questions are whether the pitching staff can continue to keep the Nats in games and if the bats can deliver in key situations, putting Washington on the winning side of these 2-1 ball games - which we might be seeing much more of this season.

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