Bats go quiet at the worst time

For much of the regular season, especially the second half of the 2014 campaign, the Nationals were a team that got balanced offensive production throughout their lineup. This wasn't a team that was carried by one or two players from an offensive perspective. Despite the fact that the Nats finished with 96 wins, the most in the National League, they don't have a clear-cut MVP candidate. (Although Anthony Rendon should get quite a few votes.) The Nats prided themselves on their ability to score runs regardless of who was at the plate. And that was a big part of their success over the 162-game regular season. Heck, Wilson Ramos, their opening-day cleanup hitter, hit eighth for a good part of the season. That's lineup depth. nats-werth-disappointed-NLDS4-sidebar.jpgIn their four postseason games, however, that balanced offensive production was severely lacking. And the Nats paid for it with another National League Division Series exit, their second in the last three years. As a team, the Nats hit .164 in their four NLDS games. They reached base at a .222 clip. They slugged .258. Compare that to their regular season slash line of .253/.321/.393. It's evident where the issues were in this series. The Nats' entire pitching staff put up a 1.20 ERA, and allowed just nine runs in four games. But the Nats also managed just nine runs in the series, and lost three one-run games. "We need to hit next time we get in this situation," first baseman Adam LaRoche said. "Our pitching was great, for the most part. Pitching on both sides was great. We've just got to swing the bats." "To win at this level," shortstop Ian Desmond noted, "you've got to score runs." Interestingly enough, it was the younger guys, the ones with minimal (if any) postseason experience that provided the bulk of the offense for the Nats. Bryce Harper had a monstrous series, going 5-for-17 with three homers, a double, two walks and four RBIs. The rest of the team as a whole drove in as many runs in the NLDS as Harper did, and the 21-year-old had three of the Nats' four home runs. Rendon also showed up in a big way, going 7-for-19 with a walk and an RBI in his first playoff action. But Denard Span, Jayson Werth, LaRoche and others didn't perform to the level at which they know they're capable. And that ended up being the difference. Talk all you want about bullpen management. Bring up any host of other factors that you might like. But the Nats players who scuffled offensively in this series will tell you themselves - the reason the Nats fell to the Giants in four games was their inability to push runs across, to generate big swings or manufacture enough on the bases. "That was the story of the series right there," Span said. "A lot of us didn't really play to our capabilities this series, and you know, they outplayed us this series, point-blank, period. We didn't swing the bat at all. That's it, man. It starts with me at the top, and I didn't do my job. A lot of us didn't do our job."

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