Nationals fall 6-3 to Reds, lose fifth straight

For the third time this year, the Nationals are in a losing streak of at least five games. And their problem at this point is the same problem they’ve had just about every time things have gone wrong for them this year: They can’t hit with runners in scoring position.

They left six more runners on base on Saturday night, going 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position in a 6-3 loss to the Reds. in their five-game skid, the Nationals are an abysmal 2-for-47 with runners in scoring position. They gave up three unearned runs, thanks to two errors by Chris Marrero, but they could only score on three solo homers, and couldn’t put together a rally without taking the ball out of the park.

The Nationals will try to avoid a sweep on Sunday with Jordan Zimmermann making his final start of the year, but they’ll have to beat National League ERA leader Johnny Cueto. For an offense that’s had no trouble hitting home runs this year (five players are in double digits, with Ryan Zimmerman likely to join that list), there have been two consistent problems: Getting runners on base at the top of the lineup and driving runners in once they do get on.

They seem to have made some progress in solving the first problem - Ian Desmond went 1-for-3 with a walk tonight, and is hitting .310 in his last 11 games in the leadoff spot. The struggles with men in scoring position, though, have gone on just as long, and right now, they’re permeating the entire lineup.

It’s why the Nationals are back to seven games under .500, needing to avoid a sweep tomorrow to stave off their 70th loss before beginning a series with the wild-card leading Braves.