Following Tuesday night’s loss to the Cardinals, a defeat which was, at the time, the Nationals’ third in a row and eighth in 11 games, a handful of Nats players sat around in the clubhouse and vented.
It was pretty late at the time. Media members and most players and coaches had left. But Jayson Werth and a few of his teammates stuck around, letting their frustrations out and bouncing ideas off each other.
“Just airing grievances,” Werth said. “Just talking out, just complaining really, to each other. We’re all in this together. We’ve got some veteran guys on this team who’ve played on different teams and been through times like this. Like I said, I really don’t think it’s as bad as it seems. I think (batting practice pitcher Ali Modami) mentioned to me last night or today or sometime, that in 2008 in Philly we started 11-11, so this is definitely not the end of the world.”
That 2008 Phillies team did, in fact, play .500 ball over their first 22 games. They were 24-22 in mid-May. They ended up winning 92 games that season, taking the National League East title and going on to win the World Series.
Last season, the Detroit Tigers also started the year 11-11. They were six games under .500 in early June and didn’t hit .500 again until July 6. They went on to make the playoffs and win the American League pennant.
That, of course, came in the American League Central, which does not compare to this year’s super competitive NL East. But you get the point. Turnarounds can happen.
Is that to say that the Nationals are certain to snap out of this funk immediately and are guaranteed to make a deep postseason run? Let’s not be silly here. I know some commenters might be waiting to jump all over an insinuation like that, and believe me, I’m not making it. It just goes to show that the season doesn’t end if you’re playing .500 ball in April. Werth is well-aware of that fact.
“We’re just going through it,” Werth said. “We really are. It’s just one of those things that hopefully we’ll look back on in September or a year from now, a couple years from now, and remember. Hopefully we’ll get over this soon and start playing good baseball and things will start going our way. At some point, I really believe that the ball’s going to bounce our way. We just, we haven’t been ... we’ve been unlucky. We really have. We’ve hit balls hard right at people. I feel like I’ve hit balls hard right at people all season. I feel like we’re all doing it. It’ll turn. This is part of the game. You play long enough, these things happen. Just got to stick with it. Not going to give up or anything like that.”
Werth singled out one play from yesterday’s game that seemed to encapsulate the Nats’ recent offensive woes. Up with two outs in the third inning, Denard Span hit a hot-shot grounder back up the middle that seemed bound to head into center field for a single. Cardinals pitcher Jaime Garcia, however, blindly stuck his glove down between his legs and had the ball pop straight into his mitt. He easily retired Span at first to end the inning.
“Just, it’s laughable at times, really,” Werth said. “Denard hit that ball hard up the middle and Garcia, it was like his glove had a magnet. It sounded like the ball hitting the catcher’s mitt it stuck so good. It’s just how it’s going.”
Manager Davey Johnson said again yesterday that he’s going to shake the lineup up for tonight’s game, moving Steve Lombardozzi to the top of the order and bumping Werth down, likely into the middle of the lineup. In search of a different result, the players are on board with such changes.
“It’s something he can do to help jumpstart the offense,” Werth said. “It’s fine. I don’t care where I hit but we need to do something to switch it up and get the offense going. Right now we’re not manufacturing runs, we’re not getting timely hits, like I said, things just aren’t going our way. Hopefully that’ll help.”