The Nationals had hoped to come out of the All-Star break refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to turn their season around.
If that turnaround is coming, it’ll have to wait another day.
The Nats fell to the Dodgers 3-2 tonight, smacking nine hits, but going just 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. They had just one RBI on the night, with their other run coming in on a wild pitch, and missed multiple opportunities to put crooked numbers up on the scoreboard.
The biggest missed opportunity of ‘em all came in the fourth, when the Nats loaded the bases with none out and failed to score. Ian Desmond grounded into a force out, Chad Tracy flew out to shallow left and Wilson Ramos grounded out to first, bringing a golden scoring opportunity to a sudden halt.
“That was real frustrating,” manager Davey Johnson said. “Desi’s been swinging the bat good, he just got a little anxious, went after it, kinda a check swing on a breaking ball. But that was frustrating. What’d we score on a wild pitch? We didn’t drive in hardly any runs. It leaves a tough taste in your mouth.”
The Nats were playing without Adam LaRoche tonight, a guy who has had a decent amount of success against Ricky Nolasco (.286 average in 56 at-bats) but missed tonight’s game with the flu.
“Whenever you lose one of your middle of the lineup guys, it always hurts, but guys are still capable, very capable, that we’ve got,” Johnson said. “Just one of those things.”
Johnson has tried countless of different lineup configurations over the last few months, trying to find anything that can generate some consistent offensive production. Even if something has worked for a day or two, that something has then faded, leaving the Nats right back where they started.
If LaRoche is healthy tomorrow, Johnson will try and switch things up again, putting Harper back atop the batting order.
“I do like Harper leading off. I think that frees him up,” Johnson said. “He’s usually on base.”
The lack of offense is so perplexing that Johnson is even welcoming the challenge of facing the Dodgers’ next two starting pitchers - Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw - two of the more talented starters in the league.
“Maybe we’ll break out against a couple pretty good pitchers,” Johnson said. “Maybe that’s what we need.”
You can tell the Nats are grasping for straws when they’re hopeful match-ups against Greinke and Kershaw can get them going.
The lack of offense tonight spoiled another strong outing by Stephen Strasburg, who allowed two earned runs over seven innings but got yet another no-decision. Both runs allowed by Strasburg came on Hanley Ramirez’s two-run shot in the third, and the pitch that Ramirez hit out wasn’t even a bad one.
Strasburg’s fastball was down in the zone, Ramirez just drove it out to right-center, an area where the ball really seems to carry at Nats Park in the summertime.
“Stras pitched a heck of a ballgame,” Johnson said. “He made one mistake to a hot hitter - (Ramirez). He threw a fastball out over the plate and he crushed it. But he pitched good enough for us to win.”
Johnson’s postgame press conference lasted under three minutes, and then he tapped the table in front of him, swiveled his legs to his right and pushed himself out of his chair.
“Anyway, tomorrow’s another day,” Johnson said.
A message a frustrated Johnson has delivered far too many times this season.