The Nationals won two games on their road trip to St. Louis and Pittsburgh. In both of those games, they scored at least six runs. The rest of the time, their offense ranged from inconsistent to futile, coming up with few answers against pitchers like Paul Maholm and Jeff Karstens and none against St. Louis starter Kyle Lohse.
And after 21 games, there's a clear theme that's developed with how they play: They're going to get solid, but not great, pitching most nights. They're going to make some errors, but on some nights, they'll be good enough to overcome them. But the one thing they can't overcome is an offense that has so far only been able to muster occasional bursts of productivity in a month-long funk.
Washington's 4-2 loss to the Pirates on Monday night dropped the team to 10-11 this year. In all but one of those 11 losses, the Nationals have scored more than four runs. In five of their 11 losses, they've limited their opponents to four or fewer runs. Put simply, they're holding teams to few enough runs that they could be several games above .500, if only they could hit.
Monday was another night where they couldn't. After scoring two runs in the first inning, the Nationals managed just two hits the rest of the way. They only had two baserunners after the sixth inning, and when John Lannan made his only mistakes of the night, allowing four runs in the fourth, the Pirates had enough offense to win the game.
We saw the Nationals take a step forward on Sunday, when Adam LaRoche and Michael Morse both homered and combined to drive in five runs. And LaRoche drove in a pair of runs on Monday night. But this is going to take more than a hitter or two heating up for a couple days. The Nationals are still striking out too much, and leaving too many men on base (they entered the night hitting .226 with men in scoring position). They need Ryan Zimmerman back - which won't happen until the third baseman goes on a rehab assignment - and they need Jayson Werth to continue to find himself at the plate (he was 2-for-3 with a walk on Monday). If all that happens, the Nationals might have enough offense to reel off a handful of wins.
Until then, they're probably going to spend a lot of nights stuck on the other side of what they need to do. Monday was one of those nights, against a beatable team, and the Nationals return home on Tuesday against the Mets still waiting for that first sustained run from their offense.