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Lineup goes quiet in 4-1 loss to Braves

Jul 2, 2015, 6:00 AM EST

USA Today Sports Images

There are nights when the Nationals’ lineup looks capable of posting big numbers, no matter how many regulars find themselves shelved due to injury. And then there are nights like Wednesday.

The Nationals looked feeble at the plate during their 4-1 loss to the Braves, held to a measly four hits by rookie right-hander Matt Wisler and five Atlanta relievers.

The irony, of course, is that there were no injury concerns entering this game, with the Nats’ three recently banged-up regulars (Bryce Harper, Denard Span, Yunel Escobar) able to play. That group, though, couldn’t duplicate the efforts of this lineup for much of the last week-and-a-half.

Despite the on-and-off status of those three key players and the longer-term loss of Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth to the disabled list, the Nationals had scored 50 runs over its previous 10 games, nine of those ending in victory. Not so on this night, not with Wisler keeping the opposition off-balance through 5 1/3 innings, surrendering only one hit along the way.

Which isn’t to say the Nationals didn’t have their chances. Five walks issued by Wisler left him pitching out of the stretch most of the night. The Nats simply couldn’t take advantage.

Wilson Ramos struck out with two on and two out in the first. Escobar grounded into a double play with runners on the corners and one out in the third. Ramos grounded into a double play with two on and one out in the sixth. Danny Espinosa struck out with two on and two out in the seventh.

The Escobar and Ramos double plays were especially damaging to a Nationals lineup that can’t afford for the men hitting in front of and behind Harper to go cold at the plate. Escobar has now grounded into 12 double plays this season, five in his last seven games alone, leaving Harper to lead off a bunch of innings instead of having opportunities to drive in runners from scoring position.

Ramos, meanwhile, has seen his batting average fall to .258, his on-base percentage to .285. The Nationals can maybe live with that from their No. 7 or No. 8 hitter, but they can’t live with that from their No. 5 hitter, not the guy hitting directly behind Harper (who reached base twice Wednesday but never scored.

The whole situation should get better, of course, once the likes of Zimmerman, Rendon and Werth return and the Nats aren’t forced to rely on less-proven hitters to protect Harper in the lineup.

But until then, they’ll have to keep hoping the rest of the bunch can provide enough quality at-bats to bring enough runs home.

  1. veejh - Jul 2, 2015 at 7:40 AM

    Clicked on the game a few times last night and happened to tune in both times during Desi’s 1st two ABs. Man, those were awful.

    • homeparkdc - Jul 2, 2015 at 8:29 AM

      No one has been more critical of Ian Desmond than I have in the last 3 point 5 months. However, last night I remembered how close he was to the Knorr family. So, no criticism from me.

  2. Just. Dave - Jul 2, 2015 at 7:44 AM

    I’d like to have an update of Werth, Rendon, Zman. I hope that all all three come back and that the two oldies can contribute something in the second half, more likely they are done being middle of the order hitters.

    • NatsLady - Jul 2, 2015 at 7:50 AM

      It was in the Post that RZimm was in Potomac working out and fielding grounders but due to pain in his foot he “limited his running.”

    • veejh - Jul 2, 2015 at 7:50 AM

      I’m questioning how much value Werth and Zim even bring now. Both their backups/platoon backups have done quite well and neither ever came close to getting hot.

      • Hiram Hover - Jul 2, 2015 at 8:12 AM

        They bring zero value now because they are on the DL.

        I am confident that both will be healthy again at some point. When they are, they will be better than their replacements.

      • natsguy - Jul 2, 2015 at 8:52 AM

        I don’t even concern myself with them. The real big loss the Nats are facing is Rendon.

      • Hiram Hover - Jul 2, 2015 at 9:29 AM

        You’re welcome to dismiss two excellent middle of the line up hitters if you want to.

        But I don’t know why you’d want to.

    • jd - Jul 2, 2015 at 10:18 AM

      With all due respect to Clint Robinson, Tyler Moore and Michael Taylor who have all done a decent job, going into the playoffs I want Zim and Werth in the lineup.

      • natsguy - Jul 2, 2015 at 10:47 AM

        The Werth and Zim of 3 years ago yes. The ones who have bum shoulders and wrists no.

      • npb99 - Jul 2, 2015 at 10:50 AM

        If they are healthy and hitting well, yes. Big if. But what do you do if, say Werth is healthy and ready to return in August, and Taylor is doing well? Do you automatically pull him to let Werth try to play his way back into shape. Not an easy call.

      • Hiram Hover - Jul 2, 2015 at 11:08 AM

        Do you automatically pull him to let Werth try to play his way back into shape. Not an easy call.

        This doesn’t seem so hard a call to me. Werth has had an OPS of over .875 for 2013-14. So yes, you want him to play his way into shape and be ready for October (fingers crossed!).

        There will be time for MAT to spell Werth, and Span in CF.

      • npb99 - Jul 2, 2015 at 3:48 PM

        HH, Past performance doesn’t always predict the future, especially with a 36 year old coming back from a broken wrist.

  3. rayvil01 - Jul 2, 2015 at 8:01 AM

    Have to think that the brain trust in San Diego must be heartsick right about now. They gave up Turner, Ross, and Wisler. Peter Gammons tweeted about a week ago that the three would have cost the Padres $1.5 million in 2017. This morning Gammons is tweeting that SD may be looking to move Justin Upton and others at the trade deadline.

    That’s why “Going All-in” on one year can really backfire. A lot of prospects don’t bloom. But, the early looks on these three are really good. Ross gave a terrific tease. Turner we’ll see sooner than later. And, then this Wisler kid looks like he can pitch…unfortunately he’s pitching for Atlanta.

    I love Rizzo’s approach of having near, mid, and long-term strategies.

    • homeparkdc - Jul 2, 2015 at 8:33 AM

      The name of the “brain trust” is A J Preller. He should be managing now instead of Bud Black. “You put the team together, you manage it.” LOL Shades of Miami.

  4. edshelton2013 - Jul 2, 2015 at 8:46 AM

    Here’s a few tidbits from the Barves’ flagship radio station yesterday:
    –Freddi Gonzalez will likely be fired during this off-season. If not then, he definitely won’t be around when the Barves move to their new stadium in 2016. Freddi’s negatives were not supporting his players (sits in dugout when guys get ejected), terrible finish to last season, burned out the BP by September. It was also mentioned that he squeezed what he could out of the lemon he was given. They expect a “big name” manager to replace him (Bud Black, Mike Scoscia?)
    –Trade deadline: The Barves feel they have several tradeable “pieces” (Gomes, Grilli, Uribe), but no wholesale dumping will occur. They’re also stocked with good young arms in the high minors. A couple of those will be used to bring in hitters this winter (3B, OF)
    –Nats have their number: We’re in their heads big-time. If they had split with us this year, they’d be around .500 and “in the thick of the race”.

    • adcwonk - Jul 2, 2015 at 9:19 AM

      As noted above, and as I mentioned last night — the Braves have got to feel pretty good about trading away Kimbrel and Melvin Upton (hasn’t hit above .208 in years, and played in only 19 games this year) and getting Maybin (.282), 22-year old Wisler, and a 2015 competitive balance round A pick.

      Braves’ writers went nuts over that at the time, claiming that the Braves’ were throwing in the towel. From my point of view, it was an excellent trade for the Braves — exactly the kind of difficult move that Amaro hasn’t done in Philly — trading away somebody at the height of their value for multiple pieces for the future.

      (Add on top of that: is it possible that Kimbrel is one of the causalities of Freddi? Led the league in saves four years in a row (starting at age 23) — and right now has a WHIP of above 1.3. At age 27, now, he’s already in the top 10 of all active relievers for games finished.)

    • adcwonk - Jul 2, 2015 at 9:23 AM

      Nats have their number: We’re in their heads big-time. If they had split with us this year, they’d be around .500 and “in the thick of the race”.

      That’s just what the Mets were saying about last year. Nats were an astounding 15-4 against the Mets, who finished just 4 games under .500

      • Joe Seamhead - Jul 2, 2015 at 10:12 AM

        The Braves-Cards trade for Miller/Heyward has worked out for the Braves, too.

      • adcwonk - Jul 2, 2015 at 10:28 AM

        Indeed. Miller is young, making the minimum salary, and not a free agent until 2019. Heyward is a free agent next year.

  5. Doc - Jul 2, 2015 at 10:21 AM

    This Wisler kid has stuff, and knows how to throw it. San Diego gave up 2 good kids in Joe Cool and Wisler.

  6. chaz11963 - Jul 2, 2015 at 10:45 AM

    Is anyone concerned about Fister? His velo is down, he’s using his fastball more, and he’s getting less groundballs and more fly balls..

    • natsguy - Jul 2, 2015 at 10:51 AM

      You are right to be somewhat concerned. He is using just as many fastballs, but this year they have no sink hence less groundballs.

    • scnatsfan - Jul 2, 2015 at 10:58 AM

      I’d be alot more concerned if we had just signed him to a 4 year deal.

      I’m concerned that with Desmond not hitting – and, despite his history, there is no sign this is short term – and Ramos returning to the rollover ground balls to second we won’t have enough offense to make much of a run this year. Werth, Zim and Rendon cannot be counted on; all of Rendon’s injuries this year have been on routine plays and, at least this year, he is just moving from injury to injury.

      Sure we’ll win the division and give us fans the thrill of the playoffs but unless the Braves, Marlins and Phillies make the playoffs with us we will need to start to find more offense to do anything more then just get a ticket to the playoffs. Lets hope we get healthy and get the bats roaring.

  7. micksback1 - Jul 2, 2015 at 11:15 AM

    No problem with the loss as the he kid for the Braves settled down after the first inning. I will hand it to him. I thiought as a rookie with high pitch count that at least 8 of the Nats hitters would solve him. When I say 8, I include our pitcher, not Desmond.

    Desi is an automatic out and has no business playing on this team. The sample size this season is adequate enough to ship him down or just get rid of him. I do not feel sorry for him and maybe he is getting what he deserves by turning down a more than generous and now an absurd offer from Rizzo this past winter.

    • Joe Seamhead - Jul 2, 2015 at 11:25 AM

      Believe it was winter a year ago that Ian Desmond turned down the extension offer. Personally, I hope that Ian wakes up. I wish the guy no ill, and i cheer for him every AB when I’m at the park. That said, I honestly think nostalgia only goes so far when talking about winning baseball. In my opinion, with Rendon out, Ian still gives this team the best chance to win versus any other available options day in and day out. But if Rendon had not needed to go back on the DL I think Desmond had been beat out by Espinosa, Esobar, and Rendon for the 3 middle infield positions, however you arrange them. I just wish, as a diehard Nats fan that Ian would go an extended hot streak.

      GYFNG!!!

      • everendp - Jul 2, 2015 at 11:31 AM

        +1

      • Joe Seamhead - Jul 2, 2015 at 11:32 AM

        And when Rendon returns, if he returns to his norm, then somebody has to sit. Espinosa has earned a spot in the lineup, and no, I don’t think he should supplant Taylor in LF, nor should he replace the platoon of Moore and Robinson at 1B.If Rendon returns to form then Ian should sit and Danny should play. Just my opinion.For that matter, if Rendon makes a full recovery and Desmond continues to struggle, then Ian Desmond has become somewhat of an albatross for this team. Let’s hope Desi doesn’t keep struggling.

  8. micksback1 - Jul 2, 2015 at 11:32 AM

    Joe, I hope your right

    I have serious doubts

    • jd - Jul 2, 2015 at 12:22 PM

      I am not totally convinced that Desi will still be here after July 31st. I still think Turner starts next year as our short stop despite his current struggles and I think we are fine with what we have up here for the rest of the year provided Rendon gets and stays healthy.

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