ATLANTA - With today’s 6-3 loss to the Braves, the Nationals’ record stands at 28-29.
On June 2, the team many people picked to win the World Series has a sub-.500 record and sits a season-high 6 1/2 games back of the Braves in the National League East.
“We deserve to be where we’re at right now,” Adam LaRoche said after today’s loss. “We’ve played like crap, and still not in awful shape. It only goes so far, we’re pretty deep into the season. We’ve got to get it going or else we won’t be there in the end. I don’t sense any panic or anyone stressing over it, but it’d be nice to pick it up a little.”
There are 105 games remaining in the season. That’s plenty of time to overcome the deficit in the division and make a run, for sure. But LaRoche, for one, is starting to get a little antsy, waiting for the Nationals’ best ball to start coming to the surface.
“One hundred-five games is a lot,” LaRoche said. “(But) we’re going to look up and we’ll have 80 games (left) in no time, so I don’t want to take that for granted. Yeah, we’ve got time to make a move, but we need to do it soon.”
The Nationals have had their moments at times this season. They ran off five straight wins in a row earlier this month and picked up a big win on Friday that looked like it’d be a momentum-starter. But for every positive stretch or big win, they’ve had a little slide or a tough loss, which explains the record hovering around .500 through the season’s first two months.
“That’s baseball. You’re ready for everything,” Ian Desmond said. “I said it in spring training: We’re in it for the long haul. It’s not a sprint, it’s definitely a marathon. You don’t want to be the guy that runs the first 100 yards as fast as you can and runs out of breath toward the end. Obviously we’re not playing a full squad here, but we’re managing to stay in ballgames. That’s really all you can ask for.”
The Nationals have had a number of injuries to key players this season. Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Wilson Ramos, Ross Detwiler and Ryan Mattheus are all currently on the DL and Stephen Strasburg might be heading there, as well, depending on how he recovers from his strained lat. (Manager Davey Johnson said after the game that Strasburg might throw on Wednesday, depending on how he’s feeling.)
The injuries have definitely played a factor. The fact that a couple of those guys are coming around and should be returning in the near future - namely Werth - gives the Nats a bit of confidence that they’ll be able to turn things around.
“Yeah, that and we know what we’re capable of doing,” Desmond said. “Thinking back, I look up at the scoreboard against the Orioles (earlier this week) and I think five or six of their guys have plus-30 RBIs. We don’t have, maybe two? That’s run production, guys getting on base. Once everyone starts clicking, the numbers are going to start going up, wins are going to start going in the W column and we’re going to be fine.”
I think it’s pretty safe to say the Nats’ offensive issues have been the biggest factor in their mediocre start to the season. They’ve scored the fourth-fewest runs in baseball as I write this and have posted a .229/.287/.371 slash line through their 57 games.
“Just about half the ballclub is not doing the things they’re capable of offensively,” Johnson said. “I look up there, a bunch of guys are hitting .150. There’s too good of quality players here to be doing that. I’m sure we’ll pick it up. It’s just a tough time. Couple guys hurt, that always gives opportunity for other guys. We have talent. We’re just not getting it done.”
As for that 6 1/2 game deficit in the division, the Nats say they do their best to ignore it at this point.
“Can’t look at it, I guess,” Danny Espinosa said. “Got to look game-to-game and try to win everyday, just try to win ballgames. We’re going to continue to grind and build this season up and get to where we want to be.”
Panic is a word that gets tossed around among a lot of fans when teams hit a rough patch. People ask when it’s time to panic or whether the players are panicking behind closed doors in the clubhouse.
As of this point, while the Nats know they’re playing sub-par ball, they say they’re not at the panicking level yet.
“Your trials, and things like that, that stuff builds character,” Desmond said. “If we can maintain a good clubhouse, if we can keep our clubhouse under control, keep guys tight, when the bad stuff fades away, we’re only going to be better when we’re good. This stuff is just going to make us stronger throughout the season.
“We’re going to hit our stride eventually. I know the fans and everyone else are getting tired of hearing that. But it’s bound to happen. We’re a good ballclub. Obviously we’re weathering this storm. Eventually it’s going to get good and it’s going be real fun. Everyone’s going to be back out wearing their red and cheering Natitude.”