For slumping Nats, offensive salvation must come from within

NEW YORK - As the at-bats continue to be squandered and runners continue to be left on base, it becomes more and more appropriate to question what the Nationals can do to try to inject some life into a lineup that too often early this season has been anemic.

Dusty Baker has tried to tweak his batting order. He swapped Daniel Murphy and Ryan Zimmerman. He swapped Jayson Werth and Anthony Rendon. That hasn't made much difference so far.

Ben Revere came back from an oblique strain, replacing the highly ineffective Michael A. Taylor in the leadoff spot. That hasn't made any difference.

The popular solution for many is to promote Trea Turner, who is currently hitting .324 with 14 stolen bases at Triple-A Syracuse, and hand him the everyday shortstop job, hoping the top prospect's combination of contact and speed can fix what ails the Nationals.

That move probably will happen at some point, though perhaps not for at least a couple more weeks if the Nationals want to make sure they secure a seventh year of control of Turner.

And in the bigger picture, if a Turner promotion (and Danny Espinosa's demotion to the bench, or worse) is seen as the answer to what ails the Nats lineup, the Nats lineup is in far worse shape than anyone could have expected.

No, the best (and probably only) way this team is going to start hitting is for the guys who are proven big league hitters to actually start hitting the way they have always hit.

zimmerman-close-swing-back-white-sidebar.jpgIt sounds simplistic, but it's true. Revere can't hit .106 forever. Rendon can't keep hitting .229 (and worse, slugging .314). Zimmerman can't keep hitting .237. And Werth can't keep hitting .210 (unless Father Time finally has caught up the soon-to-be 37-year-old, in which case the Nats have a much more complicated problem to solve).

This is the lineup Mike Rizzo built. Of course, it needs to be flexible enough for adjustments to be made when needed. But you can't overhaul an entire lineup midseason. Nor can you give up on players with nine-figure contracts, nor others penciled in to be key contributors for years to come.

The Nationals have been a slow-starting offensive club for several years now. They pretty much always break through once the weather heats up.

It's nearly time for that to happen. And it better. Because if it doesn't, there aren't a whole lot of alternatives to fix this problem.

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