The Nationals have hit .223 with runners in scoring position thus far this season, ranking 22nd in the majors in that category.
They’ve left 176 runners on base, which leads the National League.
The talent is clearly there. The Nats are putting runners on, getting knocks and drawing walks. They had six of their starting position players notch at least two hits last night.
For whatever reason, those hits largely just aren’t coming with runners in scoring position.
“I think we’re trying too hard,” said Jose Lobaton, who left four on base last night. “We’re trying too hard. We’ve just got to relax and let the ball drive. It’s going to happen. I know we’ve got a pretty good team. We can do better and better.”
Matt Williams said he didn’t think Nats hitters were pressing last night, but Danny Espinosa noted that it’s easy to press in clutch spots.
“You want to come through for your team,” Espinosa said.
It’s important to note that the Nats did really smoke some pitches with runners on last night, and in a couple situations, they got nothing out of it.
With runners on second and third and two outs in the fifth, Ian Desmond ripped a line drive to right. The ball was barreled-up and struck well. And right fielder Chris Denorfia tracked it down.
In the bottom of the 12th, with the Nats down a run, Bryce Harper stood on second base with one out. Lobaton flattened out a Huston Street pitch and sent it on a line to short. Everth Cabrera was waiting right there for it, and his toss to second base doubled up Harper and ended the game.
This team just needs some of those balls to start dropping.
On a positive note, the Nationals’ starting pitching has really improved within the last week.
Jordan Zimmermann’s six innings of three-run ball last night frustrated him, given how good he felt through his first three frames and how low his pitch count was, but it goes down in the books as another quality start.
Over the last seven games, Nats starters have pitched to a 2.74 ERA and have done a much better job of going deeper in games than they did in the season’s first two weeks.
Of those seven starts, five of them has seen the starter complete at least six innings.
Certainly a positive sign, especially when your offense is going through a bit of a rough patch.