When the Nationals started the year 20-15, they were winning taut games with sharp defense, a few hits and a gritty bullpen. Those days couldn't look further away than they do right now.
An 8-3 loss to the Tigers on Thursday afternoon plunged the Nationals to a new low this season, at 31-36. They were swept in a three-game series for the first time this year, and fell to 13-24 on the road.
Now, they're heading home after another ugly road trip, once again asking Stephen Strasburg to stop a losing streak. He's done it his first two times out, winning after a pair of Nationals losses, but this time, the Nationals are asking him to stop a three-game streak against a lively White Sox lineup. And how long can they ask a rookie, who's on pitch count and innings limits, to save them?
The Nationals hit better than the box score would show on Thursday afternoon, stinging four line drives to the warning track and forcing the Tigers to make brilliant plays to rob them of a couple more hits. But Luis Atilano became the second starter in three days not to make it through the fifth inning, and the third not to register a quality start.
And when the Nationals did get hits to fall in, there was no one to cash in. They left just six runners on base, and none of those were in scoring position. Adam Dunn's homer came with no one on base, just like his last three homers.
I'll have some more thoughts on this game and some of the problems I see on offense in a little while. Suffice it to say, though, that the Nationals have plenty to think about.