Frustration, confusion continue to build

Ready for a few mind-numbing stats?

Stephen Strasburg has a 2.14 ERA in four starts against the Braves this season. He's allowed just five runs and struck out 26 in 21 innings against Atlanta. Yet, Strasburg is 0-1 in those four starts.

The Nationals have scored two runs or fewer in 45.5 percent of their games this season. This season, the average major league team has scored two runs or fewer 29.1 percent of the time.

For what it's worth, the Nats are 6-45 in games where they score fewer than three runs. Yeah, the statistics seem to prove that scoring more runs would help lead to a better record.

The Nats have the league's lowest batting average (.220) and on-base percentage (.277) in the seventh inning or later.

I could go on, but I'll just stop there for the sake of everyone's sanity.

Scott Hairston has been with the Nationals for less than a month, but he was asked after last night's 3-2 loss to the Braves whether he can sense the frustration the Nats are feeling from an offensive perspective after struggling to produce for such a long period of time.

Hairston let out a tired, brief smile.

"Yeah, I sense it," Hairston said. "Definitely."

Reporters are starting to run out of questions for the Nationals' players after these losses, and the players are running out of answers.

How many times can we ask about a lack of production with runners in scoring position? How many times can they say that they're still expecting the bats to wake up from a season-long slump?

"In my 10 years, I've never been this confused as I have been this year, just trying to pinpoint what the issue is," Adam LaRoche said.

That comment was actually made before yesterday's game. But it could have certainly applied afterwards, as well.

The most confusing part is that the Nats continue to run out lineups that feature talented, dangerous hitters who are major league-proven. The Nats have dealt with their share of injuries this season, but every team goes through those issues. It's not as if the Nats have been missing their big middle-of-the-order bats for giant chunks of time due to serious ailments.

For whatever reason, they're just not getting the results.

Twice in the final three innings last night, the Nats had a key potential run sitting in scoring position with less than two outs. In the seventh, Scott Hairston was on second with no outs. In the ninth, Anthony Rendon was on third with one out.

Neither time was that runner brought around to score.

The frustration is becoming more palpable by the day, and the deficit is increasing by the day, as well. The Nats now trail the Braves by 13 1/2 games in the division and are seven games back of the Reds for the final Wild Card.

"I thought that the division was going to be a lot closer," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez told Atlanta reporters last night.

Yeah, it's probably safe to say we all did, Fredi.

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