Dissecting the defensive issues

NEW YORK - If the Nationals were putting up six runs a game to go along with their strong pitching, their defensive woes this season would be easier to stomach.

After all, if you have double-digit run totals on the board a couple of times a week or are in the process of coasting to another victory, it's easier to put up with a defensive miscue here and there that extends an inning or allows a relatively harmless unearned run to come across.

Unfortunately for the Nats, that's not happening.

The Nationals aren't scoring much this season. They're putting up just 3.52 runs per game, in fact, which is the second-worst total in the majors behind only the Marlins.

On top of that, they now have made the third-most errors in the majors, having committed 59 errors in their 80 games. They've allowed 31 unearned runs this season, which is a costly number when you're in so many low-scoring, tight ballgames.

Poor offensive production combined with mediocre defense is not usually a winning combination.

"We just haven't been making plays," said Ryan Zimmerman, who committed two errors yesterday, giving him 13 for the season, fourth-most among all major league players. "We've been making some silly throws that obviously lead to errors and things like that. We haven't been the best.

"Anytime you make errors, whether they're blatant errors or tricky errors, it's tough. But that's part of the game. Hopefully we had so many this game, we can not have some for a while."

That would be nice.

Yesterday, the Nats made three errors, all while rookie Taylor Jordan was in the ballgame. Those errors led to a run in the fourth and two runs in the fifth, and Jordan ended up failing to go five innings and getting stuck with the loss despite pitching pretty well in his major league debut.

To be fair, prior to yesterday's game, Zimmerman had played 15 straight errorless games. Prior to Friday night's contest, Ian Desmond had gone 59 consecutive games without an error. Now he has two in as many games and nine on the season.

The Nationals got off to a very rough start to the season from a defensive perspective, but they've improved in that area over the last handful of weeks. The defensive play has been better, and the games have been cleaner.

But we saw yet again yesterday how costly a couple defensive miscues can be, especially when the offense continues to struggle. Few teams can get away with making three errors in a game, and the Nationals certainly can't.

Not when they have now scored two runs or fewer 35 times this season.

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