PHILADELPHIA - Before Thursday's game against the Phillies - in which the Nationals will try to roust their struggling offense enough to beat reigning Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay and avoid a sweep - manager Jim Riggleman decided it was finally time to pull all his hitters together and talk about what's been going on all season.
The manager and hitting coach Rick Eckstein first met with right fielder Jayson Werth, and then had an impromptu sit-down with the rest of the Nationals' hitters in his office except Laynce Nix and Adam LaRoche, who weren't at the park yet. Several players spoke, Riggleman said. But the main message came from Riggleman and Eckstein, who wanted to let Nationals hitters know how much they believe in them.
"You just get a feel that we need to speak to them and let them know we're in their corner, still," Riggleman said. "This felt like the time to do it."
Several Nationals players have admitted this week that they've been pressing at the plate, getting overanxious and trying too hard to pull themselves out of slumps. Riggleman's message seemed aimed at the heart of those struggles; he reminded players that they're only two games below .500, despite ranking in the bottom three of the National League in most offensive categories.
Riggleman said he left the meeting feeling like his words got through, and his players were able to discuss a few things that had been on their minds. But meetings are only as good as the results they help to produce, and the Nationals are in the middle of a nine-game road trip where they face the three best teams in their division. They've scored five runs in the first two games of that trip, and tonight they face Halladay, who has allowed three runs in four starts against them since coming to the Phillies.
"Usually you like to have those meetings when you're facing an emergency starter or something," Riggleman said. "There's no magic facing Roy. You've just got to try to battle and compete with him the best you can, and try to score some runs."