The hallmarks of the Nationals’ losses - ineffective hitting, sloppy fielding and pitching that’s not good enough to keep the Nationals close - have been constants ever since the team hit their high-water mark at 20-15. They lost again on Wednesday night, 8-3 to the Detroit Tigers, and for the third time in as many road trips, they assured themselves of coming home with more losses than wins.
Ever since the Nationals got to five games over .500, they’ve been on a prolonged slide. They’re 11-20 in the 31 games since then, winning at a .354 rate. Know what that is over 162 games? A 57-105 record - or two games worse than they were all of last year.
Is this what they’re destined to be? I’m not sure. This still seems like a better team than the one the Nationals fielded last year; the bullpen is one of the best in the National League, and the Nationals have a deeper roster than in 2009 (or 2008, for that matter). But they’re beating themselves in some of the same ways, with errors and walks (Livan Hernandez and John Lannan have combined to issue 10 of those the last two games), and their lineup hasn’t been capable of covering over the issues for most of the year.
We’ll get into more of what’s gone wrong in the morning. But on Wednesday night, again, the only highlights were Roger Bernadina and Michael Morse, who are in overdrive trying to prove they should be in the lineup. Bernadina homered on Wednesday, and Morse went 2-for-3. If Nyjer Morgan keeps struggling - he was 0-for-4 on Wednesday, struck out three times and is hitting .248 - the Nationals could try Bernadina and Morse as a center-right combination.
The Nationals can’t afford to get into a situation where Stephen Strasburg becomes their stopper, simply because they’re not going to have him all season. Tomorrow afternoon is a big game for them, and the Nationals need to build off of it with a big nine-game stretch against the White Sox, Royals and Orioles before a tough series in Atlanta against the Braves.
I don’t think they are what they’ve been the last 31 games. But they might not be as good as they were the first 35, either.