Examining the offense

In the nine games prior to the Nationals' current four-game losing streak, the offense came to life in a big way.

The Nats slugged 36 extra-base hits in those nine contests (eight homers, three triples and 25 doubles). They hit .265 as a team with a .338 on-base percentage and .442 slugging percentage.

They averaged 5.67 runs per game.

Combine that offensive punch with the tremendous pitching that the Nats got during that stretch, and it's not a surprise that the team went 8-1 over those nine games.

In these last four games, however, the bats went quiet.

Starting with the series finale out in San Francisco and going through the three-game sweep at the hands of the Cardinals, the Nationals had just one extra-base hit - a double. They batted .168 as a team with a .241 on-base percentage and .176 slugging percentage.

They averaged just one run per game.

Small sample size, of course. But it's tough to win games when you're averaging a single run per game.

The pitching staff, largely, has been tremendous. The relief corps has been excellent all season, and over the last few weeks, the starting rotation has really turned things on.

Doug Fister had won five straight starts prior to Sunday's loss. Jordan Zimmermann has allowed one run in his last 26 innings. Stephen Strasburg is 3-1 with 32 strikeouts and two walks in his last four starts. Tanner Roark, who goes tonight against the Astros, has allowed two runs or fewer in six of his last seven outings. Gio Gonzalez returns tomorrow after a month on the DL with left shoulder inflammation.

The way the Nationals' pitchers are going right now, they don't need much support to rattle off wins. The Nats feel confident that their recent mini-slump offensively is an aberration and that they'll get back on track shortly.

Over the next two days, they'll face an Astros pitching staff that ranks 24th in the majors in ERA, but one that has pitched to a 3.11 ERA over the last three weeks.

The Nats don't need an average of 5.67 runs per game to have success. It'd be nice, of course, but that won't happen.

They do hope, however, that the offense returns at Nats Park after a tough end to the road trip.

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