After slow start, McLouth starting to settle in

Browse the Nationals’ individual offensive numbers this season, and it’ll take you a bit to get to Nate McLouth’s name.

In pretty much any major category, go past Jayson Werth and Denard Span and Anthony Rendon. Keep skimming down the page past Wilson Ramos and the struggling Danny Espinosa.

Eventually, you’ll find McLouth, who sports a lowly .182 batting average and a .582 OPS on the season.

But those numbers don’t tell the whole story of how McLouth has performed over the season’s first two months.

Through May 11, McLouth was hitting a miniscule .078. He was slugging .157. He had notched just two extra-base hits in his first 51 at-bats as a National, and just four hits overall.

Even as he struggled over the first six weeks of the season, McLouth stayed upbeat and positive, at least outwardly. He didn’t let his offensive struggles carry over and affect his defensive play, and he still found a way to get on base and keep the line moving even when the hits weren’t falling, drawing 10 walks through those first 29 games as a National.

Of late, McLouth has started to come around offensively, producing much more along the lines of what he and the Nationals envisioned when the 32-year-old outfielder signed a two-year, $10.75 million deal this winter.

He’s 12-for-37 (.324) over his last 15 games, has a .419 on-base percentage, and has stolen four bases in as many attempts. The hits are starting to come, and McLouth’s confidence is rising.

“It was nice, because I’ve been grinding,” McLouth said after his four-hit game Wednesday night. “It’s really nice just to finally be able to come through for your team at the plate a little bit. It certainly gives you a chance to exhale a little bit.”

It can’t be easy for a guy to struggle so significantly early in the season after he has just joined a new team. He wants to prove to the fan base that he’s worth the contract he was just given, he wants to prove to the front office that he was a smart signing, and he wants to prove to his teammates that he can help them win games.

We all remember how Dan Haren’s early-season struggles kind of spiraled on him last year, as he tried to get things on track and contribute to his new team in a positive way. It can become fairly mental during a stretch like that, something McLouth experienced to an extent.

“Just staying confident and positive,” McLouth said, when asked how he battled through his slow start. “I don’t know if you can remain confident all the time, but at least stay positive in the box and know that sooner or later it will turn around.”

How did that go for McLouth as he continued to struggle early on?

“I don’t know about confident,” he said with a laugh. “I tried to be confident. But you just have to stick with your approach that you do every day, your routine, and things will turn around.”

They have of late, and with Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper still out with injuries and the Nats struggling to score runs, they need McLouth’s bat to keep heating up.

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