It’s been a tough week for Nationals fans. Following a series loss against the Cardinals, the Nats arrived in Miami to face the Marlins. Even though Miami has one of the best sluggers in baseball, Giancarlo Stanton, who is just starting to get hot, many doubted the Marlins had the fire to win against the Nats. Coming off the week they just had where they won five out of six, you’d think the Nationals would have a chance to win the series or even sweep the Marlins.
Wrong. The Marlins took the game on Friday after the bullpen gave up a late-inning comeback. On Saturday, Stephen Strasburg and the ‘pen gave up eight runs. On Sunday, even though Gio Gonzalez pitched fantastically in the matchup against Dan Haren, the Marlins played better, using small ball to beat the Nats for the sweep. The Marlins jumped up from fifth place in the division and the slumping Nationals are now in the basement. They are now on a six-game losing streak.
Sure, the team’s hitting could be better, and errors and sloppy play have plagued the Nats so far this season. But, in my opinion, the main reason that the Nationals are losing so many games is because of injuries. The Nats’ luck isn’t as bad as, say, the Rangers, who lost Yu Darvish at the start of the season, Martin Perez until the All-Star Break and Jurickson Profar for the season. The Nationals’ injuries are more short-term than that, but it has still been bad for the ballclub.
Headlining the list of injured Nationals is Anthony Rendon. He is on a rehab assignment at Double-A Harrisburg, and he may be close to returning to the big league club. However, he was scratched from Monday’s game, which may delay his return. Rendon, the Nats’ best hitter from 2014, has been unavailable all season. They have used Yunel Escobar, the intended second baseman, as a replacement at third. Just yesterday, Escobar himself was taken out of the game due to a hand injury.
Also injured is utility player Nate McLouth, who will be out until May. The bench could use some help from this veteran.
Let’s also not forget Casey Janssen, who signed a one-year, $5 million contract in early February to replace Tyler Clippard in the bullpen. He has been hurt since March 29.
Another big loss for the Nats is Craig Stammen, who is out for the season to recover from surgery. Stammen’s injury has caused the team to make a bunch of moves, like calling up Rafael Martin, Matt Grace, and Felipe Rivero from the minors (Rivero is now out until May with a gastrointestinal bleed). Now the only real veterans in the bullpen are Drew Storen and Matt Thornton. Compare 2015’s bullpen (Storen, Blake Treinen, Tanner Roark, Aaron Barrett, Matt Thornton, and Matt Grace) with last year’s (Rafael Soriano, Tyler Clippard, Jerry Blevins, Drew Storen, Ross Detwiler and Craig Stammen), and you can see why the team has been losing a lot of games in the late innings.
Other more minor injuries have hurt the team too. Max Scherzer hurt his thumb on Thursday and will miss his start tonight. Ryan Zimmerman is dealing with plantar fasciitis, a painful foot condition. He’s been able to play every day, but his running is awkward.
The Nats started the season without two of their outfielders, Jayson Werth and Denard Span, although they are now back in the lineup.
Even though injuries are holding back the team, I think we will still see the Nationals improve. Even though they’re eight games back in the standings after the first month of play and in last place with a miserable .350 winning percentage, it’s way too early to say the whole season is a bust. The players want to win and are good enough to win, and fans should not give up. Like Tom Petty sang, we won’t back down. No, we won’t back down.
Ten-year-old Matt blogs about the Nationals at Matt’s Bats. Follow him on Twitter: @MattsBats. He shares his views weekly as part of MASNsports.com’s initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.