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Zim, Kearns and Faith

I was sitting with someone for a couple innings in the stands last night at Shea Stadium, and around the sixth inning, he said, "Ladies and gentleman, Mike Pelfrey." But couldn't it have been, "Ladies and gentleman, the Washington Nationals"?

This team is, um, sputtering offensively. And let's look at the reasons why. It's not Cristian Guzman (.333, but with just one out). It's not Lastings Milledge (.309/.361/.455, though I'm not quite sure what he's doing on the bases sometimes). It's not Nick Johnson (.420 OBP, .529 OBP with runners in scoring position).

Nope, let's look at the third hitter and the fifth hitter. That would be Ryan Zimmerman (.211/.242/.368) and Austin Kearns (.217/.368/.261).

Tuesday night's 6-0 loss to the Mets featured both of these men and their struggles. They combined to go 0 for 8. Kearns grounded into one double play. Zimmerman twice came up with a runner on third and less than two outs, and twice he failed to score the runner. They have 11 RBI on the year.

I did not speak with Kearns after Tuesday's game. He is now 3 for 16 with runners in scoring position, 0 for his last 10.

I did, however, speak with Zimmerman. This is the guy upon whom much expectations are heaped. He is now 1 for 17 with runners in scoring position. I told him those numbers. "Really?" he said. Here's what he said earlier in the interview.

On the first at-bat, with the bases loaded in the third: "I had a good pitch to hit with the bases loaded. ... I just hit it straight up in the air."

The second at-bat with runners in scoring position, he scalded one sinker from Aaron Heilman down the right-field line. Given how this season is going, it naturally fell foul. He then popped up. Again.

I asked if he felt like he was pressing with runners in scoring position. "No. I've hit the ball well. ... I feel comfortable. That's all that matters. The numbers obviously aren't where I want them to be, but you have one good game, one good series, and you're right back to where you want to be because it's so early."

Manny Acta, on those situations and whether Zimmerman is pressing: "I don't think so," Acta said. "Unless I can't read him. He's been pretty normal in those type of situations. You know what? I'll be the last guy to complain about Zimmerman. We won four games, and he won three of those four games. He would be the wrong guy for me to complain about."

Kearns, of course, could be labeled as big a culprit, and there are probably more long-term concerns about him. I'll check in with him tomorrow on his struggles. He's certainly frustrated by them.

Ronnie Belliard is, too, struggling at .200 with a .265 OBP. Wily Mo Pena singled in his last at-bat Tuesday night, and is now 1 for 8. Still early for him.

There is, too, the fact that this club is getting very little off the bench right now. Rob Mackowiak doesn't have a hit in 10 at-bats. Aaron Boone has three hits in the two games in which he's started, no hits in any appearances coming off the bench. Dmitri Young is on the disabled list. Felipe Lopez is hitting .200, has no extra-base hits and appears lost.

What to make of it all?

I'd ask three questions:

1. Do you have confidence in Zimmerman turning it around?

2. Do you have confidence in Kearns turning it around?

3. Do you have confidence in the Nationals' offense - period?

Oh, and by the way, there's a notebook.

By Barry Svrluga  |  April 16, 2008; 6:33 AM ET
 
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