Nats hitters know "something needs to change"

The Nationals are 0-3 with Bryce Harper in the lineup.

That's it; get the kid out of here. He's a jinx.

Unfortunately, the solutions to Washington's losing streak aren't that simple. The reasons for the five-game slide are easy to spot, however.

The Nationals have now scored seven runs combined during their last five games. They've averaged five hits per game over that span, have 46 strikeouts to just 10 walks and are 2-for-23 with runners in scoring position.

Possibly the most disappointing stat of all is that Washington's starters have delivered a quality start each of the last five games, and the Nationals have still dropped all five of those contests.

"Obviously, something needs to change," first baseman Adam LaRoche said. "It comes down to finding a way to get it done, and we haven't been doing it. We've been relying on our pitching, and they've been saving us a lot of these games. But sooner or later, like (Tuesday night), it's going to show up when you've got to score some runs."

It'd be easy for the Nats to look to the absence of Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse and single that out as a reason for the offensive slide, especially after days like yesterday when the Nats' No. 3 and 4 hitters went a combined 0-for-8.

But while guys in the clubhouse will acknowledge the obvious - the lineup would be better off with Morse and Zimmerman in the lineup - they won't point to the injuries when asked why they're having a hard time getting runs across.

"That's no excuse," shortstop Ian Desmond said. "We're all big leaguers. Those guys have a track record, but we're all up here trying to get track records. So I'm not sure if it's pressing or what it is, but we're just not scoring runs right now."

Manager Davey Johnson said that in general, he feels the cause of the offensive issues is a lack of aggressiveness at the plate. He'd like to see guys take a cut at a first-pitch fastball if it's down the middle instead of waiting for something later in the at-bat, or pound something to the gap with runners on base instead of trying to work a walk.

While LaRoche agreed that there might be some guys being a bit too passive at the plate, he also said that it's important for hitters to stay within their gameplan and not try to do too much.

"That's the mental side of this game - not going out and trying to hit a three-run homer with no one on base," LaRoche said.

Desmond agreed.

"I don't think Lombo (Steve Lombardozzi) is going to go up there and try to go 4-for-4 with four homers," he said. "I'm obviously not going to go up there and try and walk six times. You've just got to go out there and play your game."

So what's a manager to do in order to jumpstart the offense? Do you switch up the batting order? Call a team meeting? Sneak in at night, steal all the bats and chuck 'em in the Anacostia River?

"I just stay positive," Johnson said last night. "And I'm a positive person. I was just talking to some of the guys. I have all the confidence in the world."

"Nobody was frustrated when we were winning 2-1 games when we were 14-4," Desmond said. "Lose a couple, and I don't think anybody by any means is pushing the panic button, but obviously it's definitely apparent that we need to score more runs. If there was an answer for that, I think all of us would definitely take it. But we've got to go up there and continue to give our best, and hopefully it'll turn around."

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