Nats must play better ball, plain and simple

The Nationals gained more of a buffer on the Braves without even stepping on a field yesterday, as the Padres shut out Atlanta 3-0 to make Washington’s lead in the National League East a full five games and six in the loss column.

Don’t look now, but the Braves have dropped seven of their last 10 contests.

I wonder if they’re starting to get as antsy down in Atlanta as some are getting here in the DMV.

The Nationals arrived in Miami yesterday after having their travel adjusted due to Tropical Storm Isaac, and they’ll now get ready for two games against the Marlins in that ridiculous ballpark down there.

The good news for the Nats is that they’ll send Stephen Strasburg to the mound tonight, looking to put a stop to this four-game skid. Strasburg has gotten the ball four times this season with the Nats riding at least a three-game losing streak. In those four starts, he’s 4-0 with a 1.44 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 25 innings.

Yeah, the right guy is taking the mound tonight for Washington.

The Nats also hope to have Michael Morse (bruised right hand) and Ian Desmond (strained right hamstring) back in the lineup tonight. Both guys seemed to feel they would be ready to return tonight when asked on Sunday morning, but it remains to be seen if Davey Johnson will actually have Morse and Desmond back in action tonight.

If I had to guess, I’d say there’s a better chance of Desmond being in the lineup than Morse; the Nationals’ left fielder and cleanup hitter still had some pain in his hand when he tried to throw before Sunday’s game.

Regardless of who’s in the lineup, if the Nats are going to put a stop to this losing streak in Miami, they’re going to have to play better baseball, plain and simple.

There are times when you play well and just get beat. The three losses in Philadelphia don’t fall into that category. The Nationals were in all three games over the weekend, but they played poorly in many facets.

The offense went silent with Morse and Desmond out of the lineup. The Nats have now scored a total of six runs in their last four games and got barely any production from their three big hitters in Philadelphia. Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche and Jayson Werth combined to go 5-for-35 with 14 strikeouts in the Phillies series.

The baserunning was poor both from an offensive and defensive perspective. The Phillies went 5-for-5 in stolen base attempts over the weekend, while the Nats had Danny Espinosa thrown out down two runs in the ninth inning on Friday night, and then had that miscue which left Adam LaRoche tagged out and Jayson Werth stuck at third on LaRoche’s near home run on Sunday.

The bullpen was mediocre, allowing late insurance runs in all three games against the Phils. Friday and Saturday, one-run deficits became two when Michael Gonzalez and Sean Burnett allowed a run in the eighth inning, making the Nationals’ comeback attempts significantly more difficult.

The Nats have a chance to get back on track these next two days against a Marlins team, which is floundering (see what I did there?) and has little to play for.

This is the time to start playing the type of baseball that got the Nats to the position they’re in right now. There are 35 games left in the regular season. Time to make the most of them.

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