Washington Nationals: How Can They Stop the Bleeding by the All-Star Break?
The Washington Nationals have been inconsistent at best. All season, they've hovered around the .500 mark, perpetually stuck in second place—a position they've maintained mostly because the rest of the NL East is in rather dismal shape.
It goes without saying that the Nats have not performed up to their lofty expectations, and with the regular season nearly halfway done, it's high time they right the ship and become the World Series team everyone projected them to be.
Luckily for Washington, the solution is simple: If it wants to play past September, all the team needs to do is awaken its offense.
Of course, the Nats have struggled with more than just a lack of offense this season. Most notably, they've been plagued by near-constant injury. It makes it much more difficult to win games when some of your best hitters and pitchers are sitting on the bench.
However, manager Davey Johnson's lineup is nearly back to where it was on April 1. Stephen Strasburg, Ross Detwiler and Jayson Werth have all made their triumphant returns from the DL, and Bryce Harper apparently isn't far behind. Even with Ryan Mattheus out for another four weeks, the bullpen has been doing a good job of holding down opponents.
Looking at it that way, it seems that run support really is the last piece of the puzzle in Washington.
Consider this rather shocking fact about Nats' No. 2 starting pitcher, Gio Gonzalez:
Gio's last win came May 5. His earned runs allowed in seven starts since: 0, 2, 1, 4, 1, 2, 1— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) June 20, 2013
Add to that the stats from his most recent start against Philadelphia: two earned runs and 11 strikeouts in seven innings. Washington picked up the win in that effort even though Gonzalez did not, but the point remains: the Nats' offense needs to at least equal the success of its pitchers.
After all, it's not good pitching that puts runs on the board.
Thankfully, the Nats' bats have already begun to awaken. Anthony Rendon has added a much-needed spark since he was called up to play second base, batting .325 with a .388 OBP, and the rest of the team seems to be following suit.
Obviously, the Nats can't expect Desmond to hit a grand slam every game or Chad Tracy to hit a game-saving home run off the bench every night. Everyone in the lineup needs to contribute to the offensive success of the team.
Furthermore, the Nationals need to relax. A lot of expectations have been put on them this season, but it would benefit them to check those lofty goals at the clubhouse door and just go out and play the game.
If the Nats can accomplish that, success will certainly follow.
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