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Two steps forward, two steps backward

Aug 22, 2015, 12:51 AM EST

AP

If the Nationals were hoping the start of a long homestead would present an opportunity to bolster any optimism still out there for a late-season surge, they sure did little Friday night to back up the sentiment.

Slogging their way through an ugly ballgame against an uninspired opponent, the Nationals were clobbered 10-3 by the Brewers, a loss that dropped them back under the .500 mark for the season and left many in the crowd of 29,916 booing a club universally expected to win its division five months ago.

The Nationals may yet realize those expectations, but with each passing day they’re digging themselves into a deeper and deeper hole, leaving themselves with virtually no margin for error. Friday night’s blowout loss, combined with the Mets’ 14-9 win at Colorado, leaves them a season-high 5 games back in the NL East with 41 to play.

When, exactly, does this team expect to make its long-awaited run?

“I think we have an opportunity to do that at home this week,” right fielder Bryce Harper said. “Just a tough outing tonight. Sometimes baseball plays that way. We’ve just got to come in tomorrow with a good attitude and do what we can and just kind of ride it out until we get going for a couple more games.”

The Nationals (and their fans) have been waiting for the tide to turn, but every time it appears they’re headed in the right direction, they slam on the brakes and reverse course.

They won two straight at Coors Field to begin the week, offering some signs of life, with a chance to reduce their deficit in the division to 3 games with another win Thursday. Then then dropped that series finale to the Rockies, took a red-eye flight that got them back in D.C. at 6 a.m. Friday and proceeded to sleepwalk their way through this loss to Milwaukee.

They gave up 10 runs. They were charged with three errors (though one was later changed to a base hit). They let a run score on catcher’s interference. They misplayed other balls into extra-base hits.

“It’s important for us to be competitive in all aspects,” manager Matt Williams said. “Tonight, it wasn’t that way. I’ll preach it again. We think this way: Tonight’s over, we have to get them tomorrow. Certainly you want to be out there playing clean and getting the outs we should get and not giving them extras. You pay for it eventually.”

The Nationals have been paying for it for quite some time. They’re now 6-15 since July 31, the opener of what would become a 3-game sweep at the hands of the Mets at Citi Field. In that time, they’ve seen a 3-game lead morph into a 5-game deficit.

“Getting on a run for us is just a matter of getting a couple of balls to fall our way, whether it means bleeders or great plays on defense,” said Doug Fister, who surrendered four runs in relief of Gio Gonzalez during Friday’s loss. “We need some momentum, something just to keep us going. Guys are playing hard, they’re putting together good at-bats. Pitchers are grinding it out. We just haven’t had it go our way consistently yet. All it takes is one day of some good stuff followed by the next one. We’ve just gotta start that tomorrow.”

Perhaps they will. Perhaps the Nationals will beat Brewers rookie Taylor Jungmann (owner of a 2.23 ERA) on Saturday. And perhaps they’ll get a win out of Jordan Zimmermann on Sunday, giving them a series victory and giving everyone reason to resume hope of a sustained, positive run.

But they haven’t exactly seized any opportunity for weeks now. And one of these days, they may run out of time to do it.

  1. Eugene in Oregon - Aug 22, 2015 at 1:20 AM

    Poor pitching, poor hitting, poor fielding. The mid-August Nats looked an awful lot like the early-April Nats. And that’s obviously not a compliment.

  2. robertrobert104 - Aug 22, 2015 at 6:11 AM

    Mark Zuckerman wrote lately that it was time for the leaders of that team to rose up…Well, we have our answer: there is nome on that team! a bunch of chockers who can’t hold the pressure of winning. They even don’t seems to have fun on the field, they are dead! And Matt Williams was maybe a good player, but as a manager, yurk! So, it is time to close the book on this year, as the Nats will be remember as the team that failed. A team that was supposed to have it all, but in the end, was underperforming. Seems harsh, but true….

  3. Joe Seamhead - Aug 22, 2015 at 7:51 AM

    Close the book if you want to. I hear there’s a baseball game tonight.

  4. veejh - Aug 22, 2015 at 8:36 AM

    Man, I was really looking forward to this baseball season. What a bummer.

  5. natsjackinfl - Aug 22, 2015 at 8:48 AM

    As I’ve stated a couple of times during the last 2 weeks, I am not going to be surprised should the Nats bottom out at 6 games back of the Mets. This past road trip and the ensuing flight back has created a hangover effect on the club that probably won’t clear till after Mondays off day.

    It’s still 10 days before the September 1st call ups and another 11 fays before I go to Miami to watch the Nats in their week end series with the Fish. Should the Nats leave Miami anything more than 3 games back, then I will officially join the ranks of the “Walking Worried” group.

    But I have to admit, it’s really hard to watch the unacceptable play of this club.

  6. IsawTeddywin - Aug 22, 2015 at 8:53 AM

    It doesn’t look good at the moment , I suspect Nats will have to do the equivalent of winning every series from here on out to have a shot. They’ll certainly have to at least win both series against the Mets somehow.
    It is interesting to note that since April, both teams have the same 50-48 record. The Mets 11 game winning streak in April may have given them the title, when it gets to the end. 41 games left. Nats won 27 of last 41 in 2013, 28 in 2014. Hoping for a repeat, at least.

    • edgs3rd1978 - Aug 22, 2015 at 1:31 PM

      That’s essentially what it comes down to (winning every series)…which is essentially playing at a .666 winning percentage. This would give them a 27-14 record over the last 41 games…which would tie the Mets overall at 87-75 at end of season. The only problem I see is that we’re using the Mets’ overall winning percentage for the season to determine where they will finish. I think what we should be using is their winning percentage at the time of the trading deadline until now (.684). However, it is unrealistic to expect the Mets to keep playing at that level. So I guess we can say that the Nats need to go anywhere from 27-14 to 33-8 over the last 41 games to keep with the Mets.

  7. natsjackinfl - Aug 22, 2015 at 9:01 AM

    Oh, and this for that over hyped used car salesman that masquerades as the Dodgers President and CEO.

    See what happens when you think old worn out former Philly stars are the solution to your problems. How about addressing the bullpen situation?

    • stoatva - Aug 22, 2015 at 9:38 AM

      Post game caller to Phil Wood was railing that the Nats of the last four seasons were the worst under performers and biggest disappointments in the history of, like, forever!

      I’m thinking the Dodgers return on investment during the Mattingly years might merit a mention.

      • Joe Seamhead - Aug 22, 2015 at 9:54 AM

        Oh, I don’t know about that statement. I’ve followed baseball for a long time and I know some Cubs and RedSox fans that could tell you about disappointing teams. I have enjoyed the hell out of the past 4 years, warts and all. Even last night, as bad as they played, I enjoyed certain aspects of the game. Are they frustrating? Even infuriating? Heck, yeah. Am I disappointed with how the year has played out? Of course. But there’s still another game tonight, and I’ll be watching, and enjoying it. In my mind, the fact that I still enjoy watching, in spite of everything, makes me a loser to some. But I feel sorry for those people. They’re miserable, and I’m still smiling.

      • Steady Eddie - Aug 22, 2015 at 10:20 AM

        To Joe: +all

  8. donniebenth - Aug 22, 2015 at 9:04 AM

    Question: Do you all think Yunel could be a decent first baseman?

    I’m trying to get my head around next year’s ideal infield.

    Defensively, locking in Rendon at 3rd and Espi at 2nd makes sense.

    If Turner proves to be ready, I’m guessing he’d be the most likely choice at SS.

    It seems like we need to get Yunel’s bat in the lineup. So, first base?

    Would Nats brass consider Rzimm and Werth as bench guys given their salaries and stature?

    Would we consider resigning Span?

    Could we find a slugging corner outfielder to bat behind Bryce?

    We currently have no power and no speed. It’s hard to score runs by hoping to string a bunch of singles together, especially because we don’t have a ton of high contact guys.

    • therealjohnc - Aug 22, 2015 at 12:08 PM

      Ryan Zimmerman will play first next year, on merit. CRob is brutal defensively; it’s damning that Zim is a much better 1b after 60 games than CRob is after a decade there. Escobar’s season has been desperately needed, but it’s a fluke. Planning on him hitting like this next year would be foolish.

  9. Joe Seamhead - Aug 22, 2015 at 9:39 AM

    The following is what the Washington Post said about Trea Turner’s 2 AB’s last night.

    James Wagner:

    “Trea Turner was double switched into the game at shortstop to make his major league debut. He went 0-2.”

    Chealsea Janes:

    ” Turner wnt 0-2 in his major league debut, an unceremonious one, in a troublesome 10-3 loss.”

    I was at the game and the speed that Trea showed getting down the line to first was unparalleled by anything the Washington Nats have ever had. Ever. He reached 1B from home faster than all but two recorded times by Billy Hamilton this year. We are talking world class speed, folks, and I think that our reporters could have been a little more enthusiastic with their reporting of his debut AB’s. It was Blazing Saddles fast!

    • Dave - Aug 22, 2015 at 9:56 AM

      I was there too, and bringing Turner in was one of the high points. In his very first at bat he forced a replay challenge with his speed. Later he was in the middle of a 4-6-3 double play, which may have been the only DP of the game. (I left in the middle of the 8th inning.)

      That is to say, I too disagree with Ms. Janes’ and Mr. Wagner’s assessments of Turner and his debut.

      As to leaving early, I think that may have been the first time since 2005 that I left a game early because I couldn’t take it anymore. I have left early a very few times because of the Metro schedule or other external reasons, but never because a game was going badly.

      Now I have. It bums me out to have done so.

      • Dave - Aug 22, 2015 at 9:59 AM

        I meant that Turner helped turn a DP at short. He was the double-play-Turner.

      • Section 222 - Aug 22, 2015 at 10:06 AM

        Don’t feel bad Dave. You’re out there a lot. No shame in leaving early if you have better things to do than watch the Nats play out a bad loss. I stuck around, but only because I was with a crowd of friends and the weather was well nigh perfect. So the game had become secondary at some point. Nice to see Harper’s and MAT’s bombs and Turner’s debut, but that’s about it.

  10. 9rhrssy01 - Aug 22, 2015 at 9:48 AM

    Thoughts from anyone re what’s happened too Roark. Have they ruined him? Also Gio .He’s given up loads of runs early in his last two starts, He’s always been inconsistent,but I don’t remember two starts in a row being this bad.

    • scnatsfan - Aug 22, 2015 at 9:52 AM

      Losing is a virus, very hard to shake. Most of the roster has caught it. Williams has no cure.

    • Section 222 - Aug 22, 2015 at 10:09 AM

      Gio has been pretty good in recent months. Yes, two bad starts in a row, but I don’t think that means there’s something wrong with him. Roark is a real quandry. He had such promise after the last two years, but MW never figured out how to use him effectively out of the pen, nor has he pushed his way into the conversation with his performance. I sure hope we get the 2014 Tanner back next year, but he’ll likely have to fight for a slot in the rotation.

      • Steady Eddie - Aug 22, 2015 at 10:26 AM

        Actually, Gio didn’t pitch badly until the comebacker off his leg, at which point he clearly lost it and gave up four consecutive line drives. The two runs earlier were basically the fault of the “defense”.

      • Section 222 - Aug 22, 2015 at 11:21 AM

        Agreed. I couldn’t figure out why MW left him in for four more batters. Lind’s double made it absolutely clear he was done.

      • philipd763 - Aug 22, 2015 at 11:14 AM

        You don’t take a successful starter and stick him in the bullpen. Roark won more games last season (15) than Scherzer will likely win this year.

      • Section 222 - Aug 22, 2015 at 11:18 AM

        Wins are irrelevant. But your point has at least some merit, though I wouldn’t express it so categorically. The question for you, since you seem so sure that it was an obvious mistake to put him in the bullpen, is what your Opening Day rotation would have been? Who would you have dropped? Scherzer? Stras? Znn? Gio? or Fister? Do tell us what MW should have done. Or do you think acquiring Scherzer was a stupid idea? Or maybe we should have had a six-man rotation?

        We await your response.

    • natsdial8 - Aug 22, 2015 at 11:51 AM

      Dueces your a little hard on that poster. Very legit question as to who put and why Roark went to pen . In retrospect maybe any of the starters other than him should have went ( just kidding)

      Seriously no one can argue that MW has not handled the entire staff very well this year.

      It is the Skippers’s responsibility to steer these guys through the season and get the most.

      • Section 222 - Aug 22, 2015 at 12:54 PM

        Sure, in retrospect. Though I’d argue that only Fister has been an unmitigated disaster this year. It’s easy to take potshots in retrospect (and this particular poster specializes in that), but if you’re going to do that you ought to be able to answer the question “what would you have done at the time?” Or “How would you have handled the situation differently?”

        I think it’s pretty hard to argue that any other solution made sense at the time. Not with the track record of our “historic” rotation, and Roark’s successful work as a reliever when he was a rookie. I argued *at the time,* that Roark should be used as a Yasmiro Petit type weapon — brought in not only in long relief but to pitch two innings in high leverage situations. Instead, MW forgot about him for much of April. He got 8 days of rest after a garbage time appearance against the Red Sox. Now he’s the second of two long relievers in the pen. It’s sad. I just hope he can regain his form next year.

  11. Section 222 - Aug 22, 2015 at 9:53 AM

    Well, at least we had both Fister and Roark for garbage time. Ugh. A really poor display by the Nats last night. The defense was little league quality. I’m not sure why the Brewers would be called “an uninspired opponent.” The only team on the field last night that was uninspired was the Nats. Maybe Mark meant “an uninspiring opponent.” If that’s the case, the Nats need to adjust their attitude. Because that uninspiring opponent just handed them their lunch.

    • Joe Seamhead - Aug 22, 2015 at 10:00 AM

      Deuces, I agree. I think that there is a very real possibility that we saw Fister for the last time as a Nat. I really loved watching him play last year and find his struggles this year to be very sad to witness. He wants to compete, but it’s just not happening for him.

      • Section 222 - Aug 22, 2015 at 10:03 AM

        I imagine they are keeping him around to slide back into the rotation when Joe Ross is shut down. But would they really have him start over Roark when that happens. I sure hope not. There was an interesting discussion here yesterday about whether he’ll get a Q.O. and earn us a draft pick. I really don’t think so, because he’s probably take it.

  12. JayB - Aug 22, 2015 at 10:09 AM

    exactly….Finally seeing what I believe I have been seeing for months…..just a dead team that thinks it is too cool to show they care or are frustrated….a dead manager that has idea and not skill in using the tools he has on the roster and a GM that never ever thinks he is wrong.

    • Section 222 - Aug 22, 2015 at 12:46 PM

      Oh don’t give me that “you’re finally coming around to what I’ve known for months” stuff. Give me a little more credit than that. I don’t wear rose colored glasses and I’ve been plenty critical of MW, and not just this year. I also thought Rizzo should have found a starter at the deadline in 2013, the lost year of Dan Haren. I just don’t subscribe to your “this team is irrevocably terrible” philosophy the day after every loss.

  13. Theophilus T.S. - Aug 22, 2015 at 10:11 AM

    Stuck around last night to see Turner’s first AB. You are right about his speed. I don’t think any right-handed batter in the league could have made that play at first that close. From looking at the replay he should have been safe as the ball was a mere sno-cone when his foot hit the base. If Escobar is going to be out more than another day or two I think they have to make another roster move. Can’t keep playing games w/ this pitching staff with Scherzer (or Strasburg, or whoever) as your fifth inning PH off the bench.

  14. philipd763 - Aug 22, 2015 at 11:09 AM

    The future of this franchise looks rather dismal to me. Obviously, a rebuild will be required after a very disappointing season and with 4 or 5 free agents leaving. Rebuilding while saddled with three ugly contracts (RZ, Werth & Scherzer) will be difficult. When Ted Lerner shelled out $210 million for Scherzer, I don’t thing he had an 11-10 record in mind.

    • natsdial8 - Aug 22, 2015 at 11:57 AM

      Oh contrare my friend IMO the future is bright.

      Mike is a top GM and we have a lot of talent . If Mike is learning from his actions, he will adjust.

      He needs to look hard at the coaching staff.

      The only major error he has made IMO was extending Z. ( Scherzer deal jury out) .

      Overall I like our future prospects.

      • natsguy - Aug 22, 2015 at 1:01 PM

        The problem with the future is that right now there isn’t a lot in the minors and that which is good is 2 or three years away. So if this team has to blow up it’ll be awhile before they are back.

  15. JayB - Aug 22, 2015 at 11:09 AM

    Sure you can….tomorrow is a new game….nothing in the past matters and no point reflecting on why you lost…..pinch hitting with a pitcher….that is just baseball and nobody is responsible for that roster make up…..all is fine and the sun came up…that is the bar for this team and fan base right?

    • natsjackinfl - Aug 22, 2015 at 11:54 AM

      Finally, you get it. Entertainment doesn’t rank anywhere near the top of my priority list. I use entertainment as a way to provide pleasure. If I want misery, I watch Fox News.

      And the people (yes, people because a lot of voices get heard and ideas expressed during the decision making process) that developed the roster have done a great job. I mean, they wouldn’t kowtow to an aging, underperforming 2nd baseman who demanded 5 lineup days a week in his trade demands. There was one clown always clamoring for Chase Utley. No thank you. I’ll take Trea Turner as a true bench player.

      In Rizzo (and his staff) We Trust (for entertainment purposes).

      • micksback1 - Aug 22, 2015 at 1:01 PM

        LOL on Fox News

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