Earlier this afternoon, before sitting down with reporters for his daily pregame press conference, Nationals manager Davey Johnson met up with Giants manager Bruce Bochy and some of the San Francisco coaches.
Johnson has struggled to come up with answers for why his offense has struggled this season, but he’s not alone. While the Nats rank fourth-worst in the majors in runs scored this season, the Giants are actually one spot lower, having scored four fewer runs than the Nats.
The Giants are hitting a respectable .258 as a team, 15 points higher than the Nats, but they’ve slugged just .373 this season and hit only 69 home runs as a team, second-fewest in the league.
Think the Nats have had issues scoring runs lately? The Giants have averaged just 2.61 runs per game since the All-Star break and have plated more than three runs in just six of those 23 games.
“They’re riots,” Johnson said of the Giants’ coaches. “They’re bemoaning how they’re hitting terrible. I said, ‘Don’t be talking that around me. We ain’t doin’ too good, either.’
“And Bochy was getting all over (third base coach Tim) Flannery and the hitting coach. I said, ‘You brought that crap you’re featuring in San Francisco to the National League All-Stars. They got the same disease we got. Can’t get the ball out of the infield.’
“But it was fun seeing how they’re dealing with it. They’ve actually gone worse since then.”
Both the Nationals and Giants were expected to be playing into October this season. San Francisco was coming off a World Series title last season and had much of the same roster in place for this year. The Nats were obviously hoping to build off a major league-best 98 wins and a NL East title and take the next step in their postseason progression.
Despite the expectations, both teams have fallen flat.
The Giants sit in the basement in the NL West and have been really scuffling the last few weeks, going 7-14 since July 21. Like the Nats, they’ve had some injuries here and there, but no really crushing blows that could explain their disappointing play.
So why can teams that have proven they’re playoff caliber in the past with very similar talent experience such a dropoff in performance?
“Every little thing is so important,” Johnson said. “Bench, bullpen, starters, offense. If you’ve got a little glitch in any area, it can keep you from getting where you want to go. We’ve had it and (Bochy’s) had it.
“There’s such a thing as momentum, too. When there’s a lot of little cracks in the dam and a lot of water starts coming through, you get too many cracks and you’ve got a flood. And it’s hard to change that momentum around. But basically, veteran players ... the predictability is greater. The consistency’s greater. When you try and put guys in different roles, like Zach Duke was a starter and he didn’t handle the relief role very well. So all those little things, it’s not just one thing. It adds up.”
The Giants are fully out of the playoff race at this point, and at 15 1/2 games back in the NL West, this represents their largest deficit in the division since the end of the 2007 season.
The Nats still are holding out hopes of a late run and a postseason birth, and they have a chance to keep things rolling a bit against one of the few teams in the league that has more trouble scoring runs than they do.