Following Sunday's loss to the Marlins, manager Jim Riggleman and his coaching staff held a long meeting with players before heading to Atlanta. Riggleman wanted to remind his team to play hard for nine innings every game and finish the season strong. The Nationals have lost five in a row and seven of their last ten games.
Riggleman thought that his team gave a lackluster effort, one that warranted a team meeting where each coach spoke about giving a better effort for the remaining games.
"I just thought our energy level, our body language early in the game, was not up to the standards it's going to take for us to be a ballclub that goes to the next level. I just didn't feel like we were getting after it early," Riggleman said.
He thought having the coaches add their perspective would make his message more effective. Riggleman has held a few similar meetings already this season.
"This is what I see, this is what the coaches see, this is what Mike [Rizzo] sees, this is what the fans see, so if anybody in the room thought that was acceptable, then they need to be made aware that we certainly don't think it's acceptable."
Early in the game, Ian Desmond made a throwing error, allowing Dan Uggla to reach first. On another grounder to short, the speedy Emilio Bonifacio reached first after Desmond's throw got by Adam Dunn. No error was recorded on that play but Bonifacio later scored. Then in the second inning, Jordan Zimmermann's pickoff throw to second base sailed into center field.
That's just a taste of what might have upset the manager, whose team is 60-83 heading into the final three weeks of the season.
"We just got swept by the Marlins coming off a bad series before that. You can imagine what the tone was," Desmond said after the meeting.
"We gotta play better, we gotta expect more of ourselves," Desmond continued. "I don't think there's anybody in here happy with the way the year is going, but it's not over yet. We still have a lot of baseball to play. I'm not sitting here saying we can make the playoffs, but we can right this ship, get it moving in the right direction for next year."
As a September callup last season, Desmond watched the Nationals finish with a seven game win streak. He hopes this team can find a similar spark and head into spring training with renewed energy.
"Nobody likes losing, but it's a process here," Ryan Zimmerman said after the game.
Zimmerman went 2-for-4 with an RBI and recorded his club-leading 42nd multi-hit game, but as a clubhouse leader he thought the meeting was understandable and warranted.
"We have a young team. A lot of these guys are learning how to play every day in the big leagues. It's not an easy place to learn. It's a hard thing to learn how to be consistent and how to be successful every day."