Nats trying to keep frustrations at bay

MIAMI – Baseball’s a hard game. It’s one of the hardest games in professional sports.

It’s a game in which if you succeed one-third of the time, you’re considered one of the best in the sport.

So naturally, there are going to be plenty of ups and downs throughout the course of a 162-game season. All teams will go through hot streaks. All teams will go through cold ruts.

The Nationals currently find themselves in the middle of a particularly frustrating rut. They are 12-26, having lost three straight after last night’s 5-1 defeat at the hands of the Marlins. They lost all five games so far this season against the Fish, a team they usually beat. And they’ve lost seven of their last nine overall.

But they’re doing their best to not let their frustrations boil over and get the best of them.

“Just stay positive, you know,” Nelson Cruz said after Tuesday’s loss. “Trust what you got every day to put on what you put on every day. That's the only thing you can control.”

Cruz has certainly had a frustrating couple of days in Miami. First, he was scratched from the starting lineup and sent away from his teammates on Monday. Then, he returned to the lineup for Tuesday’s game and went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, including one to end the sixth inning with the bases loaded.

But the 41-year-old slugger isn’t the only one struggling with runners in scoring position to start this road trip. The Nationals went 2-for-9 with RISP and left seven runners on base in Monday’s loss and went 0-for-5 with RISP and left 10 runners on base in Tuesday’s loss.

Is there anything that can be attributed to?

“I don't know. Nothing,” Cruz said. “I mean, it's part of the game, I guess. You go through stretches like that. But we are one of the best teams in the league hitting with runners in scoring position. Probably lately that wouldn’t be the case. But overall, we should be in the top five.”

They are in terms of batting average with runners in scoring position, hitting .279 to rank fifth in the major leagues and third in the National League. But they’re in the lower half of the majors in on-base percentage (.324), slugging (.388) and OPS (.712) with RISP.

So they’re getting hits with runners in scoring position, just not a lot of extra bases. But they are fifth in the NL with 118 RBIs with RISP.

Then there are the fielding errors, which we have seen a lot of this season, including these past two games.

There was Lane Thomas airmailing a ball home to try to prevent a run from scoring on Monday and Keibert Ruiz not being able to track it down. Then Victor Arano picked up the ball and tried to throw out a runner advancing to second, sailing it high and wide again and allowing another run to score.

Then there was Erasmo Ramírez’s errant pickoff attempt to first on Tuesday night, when his front cleat got stuck. Josh Bell then threw across the diamond past his awaiting teammates, allowing another run to score to cap off a three-error seventh inning.

How does manager Davey Martinez address these issues and get his message across when they’ve been happening so frequently?

“For me, it's about addressing the issue every day,” Martinez said. “We address all the issues every day. I sit with the guys, I talk to them every day and address it. And hopefully we get better. I mean, like I said, we got some young guys that are learning and they're getting better. Then we got some veteran guys that just need to perform a little bit better, honestly. I mean, if you think about it.

“And I think that's going to come, I really do. I've said this before, you see signs of us maybe breaking out one day, and you think that the next day. But we got to start, one, like I said, driving in runs and just making things happen. Staying positive and making things happen. I mean, that's all we can do. That's the only way we're gonna get out of this is that we stay positive and we pull for one another and we try to go 1-0 every day.”

Is it a matter of young guys trying to do too much while the veteran players try to overcompensate for their less experienced teammates?

“Well, it's all of them. It really is,” Martinez said. “I mean, I can't pinpoint just one guy. A lot of guys are just pressing right now because they care. I mean, that's the biggest thing about this group is that they care. And they want to win, they want to snap out of it. We need to just relax a little bit and just play the game. I talked about chasing the game, you can't chase the game. Just relax and go out there and play the game and have fun.”

And with these conversations happening more frequently as of late, how have the players responded?

“Great, great,” the skipper said. “I mean, like I said, my conversations are more or less, I want to hear what they got to say first. And then I'll correct them when I hear something I need to correct them on. But the conversations have been really good. And like I said, these guys are playing hard and they are trying hard. I mean, sometimes we got to try less and just let it happen.”

With one more game in this three-game set tonight before continuing the road trip in Milwaukee this weekend, the Nats will try to just let things happen and keep their frustrations at bay in hopes of finally beating the Marlins.

Game 39 lineups: Nats at Marlins
Cruz can’t come up clutch, more poor play in Nats’...

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