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Without offense, Nationals are too close for comfort

Morning roundup

When you play one-run games in the major leagues, you're flipping coins. The Nationals won their first eight one-run, nine-inning games this season. They won those games because the relief pitching was nails and the clutch hits came. Both commodities are to be cherished, but not counted upon.

The Nationals are stuck in a five-game losing streak and an offensive rut. They have scored 10 runs in those five games, three of those without Adam Dunn. Three of those games were one-run defeats in which the Nationals wasted a chance or made a crucial mistake or got an ineffective relief performance.

The point: Some of the Nationals losing streak owes to Dunn's absence and some owes to a kind of late-inning regression to the mean. The Nationals were playing great in the late innings, but at some point, the breaks were going to even out and the Nationals were going end up on the wrong side of close games.

The most urgent issue in turning around the Nationals streak is coming through with men on base. The Nationals put two men on base in the sixth, seventh and eight innings last night, and they produced one run out of it, on Ian Desmond's stellar, eighth inning at-bat.

"That's been a little bit of the theme of our road trip," Riggleman said. "We really missed some opportunities to score some runs. I've thought all along, I don't think we've hit our stride offensively at all. There was a time or two where maybe it looked like we were getting ready to. We just haven't produced runs the way we're capable, and it's tough to win ballgames when you do that."

Aside from getting Dunn's bat back in the lineup, there's not much the Nationals can do to fix coming up short in big spots. The game before their streak started, the Nationals exploded for 14 runs. The Nationals can't put a finger on why the runs have dried up.

"You don't really try to do anything to correct it," Josh Willingham said. "You just try to put a good at-bat together. It's really all you can do in that situations. You're not changing anything."

The silver lining is starting pitching. John Lannan provided a quality start last, his good health just as important as his good results. "My arm felt great," Lannan said. "These last couple days, I've been taking care of it. It felt great yesterday. It felt awesome today. It's just something that I've got to watch out for."

Since April 25, Nationals starters have a 3.52 ERA, and no Nationals starter has allowed more than four runs in a start since May 5. The key now is getting some offense so they don't have to try to win a close game.

FROM THE POST

Tracee Hamilton talks to Drew Storen the day after he made his debut and finds he's still doing it the right way.

The Nats dropped their fifth straight, a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Cardinals in which Tyler Clippard picked up his third loss.

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Syracuse was rained out.

Harrisburg was rained out.

Frederick 3, Potomac 1 (Game 1, seven innings): Boomer Whiting went 2 for 3, the Nats only two hits.

Frederick 3, Potomac 2 (Game 2, seven innings): Derek Norris went 1 for 1 with a double and two walks. Michael Burgess went 1 for 3 with a home run. Evan Bronson allowed no earned runs in 5 2/3 innings on four hits and no walks while striking out six.

Hagerstown 4, Asheville 1 (Game 1, 7 innings): Mitchell Clegg allowed one earned run on seven hits and a walk in five innings.

Hagerstown 1, Asheville 0 (Game 2, 7 innings): Destin Hood went 1 for 3 with an RBI, a walk-off single. Paul Applebee, Kyle Morrison and Patrick Arnold combined on a five-hit shutout.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

Bryce Harper gave an extended interview to Baseball America.

Tom Verducci's contrasts Stephen Strasburg's path to the majors with Mike Leake's fast track and wonders which is the right way.

From back home in D.C., Ben Goessling writes now we'll find out who the Nationals really are.

By Adam Kilgore  |  May 19, 2010; 8:59 AM ET
 
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Next: Adam Dunn back in lineup

Comments

Harrisburg wasn't rained out.

They beat Reading 5-4

Posted by: Brian_ | May 19, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Why is Harris pinch hitting in crucial situations. This guy has become Riggs Austin Kearns and he is killing us.

Posted by: dovelevine | May 19, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

When is Destin Hood moving to Harrisburg.

Posted by: hansenjo | May 19, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Harper sure sounds like Drew Storen in that interview. The one thing not talked about is his jump from high school learning workload to college.

Q: Would you rather get to the big leagues in two years as an outfielder or in three years as a catcher?

A: Whoever drafts me, whatever they want to do with me, I'll do. I love to catch. I've loved to catch my whole life. But playing in the outfield and being able to hit and play in every single game, that's a big difference. Anywhere I can help a club, I'll help them. Anywhere they need me or want to use me, I'll do whatever they want. I love to catch and love to play the outfield.


Q: What have you missed about being in high school?

A: I have not missed one thing at all. I really haven't. I didn't really have any friends in high school because I was about baseball. That's all I was about. Everyone else, they were about partying and all that kind of stuff. I stayed away from all that. I was pretty much a homebody. Go to school, go to baseball, go to the gym and come home. And eat a great home-cooked meal by my mom. That was my day. Then Sundays I'd go to church.

Posted by: hansenjo | May 19, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of Austin Kearns... It is interesting what a change in location did for him http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/players/profile?playerId=5012

Posted by: PNatsFan | May 19, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

>>Speaking of Austin Kearns... It is interesting what a change in location did for him Posted by: PNatsFan

Give him a month and he's back at .245--guaranteed. Look at Schneider and Church when they went over to the Mets. Both starting off blazing just like Austin Ks. Then Schneider finished off on the bench before being shipped out and Church was back to the mid .200s before being exiled in Pittsburgh.

Posted by: dovelevine | May 19, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Certainly agree with dovelevine's comment above about pinch-hitting with Harris last night with runners on 2nd and 3rd and on out. Don't think the lefty/lefty match-up thing makes a lot of sense when the players BA is below the Mendoza line.

Posted by: slopitchtom | May 19, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Quote from above - "The Nationals can't put a finger on why the runs have dried up" - huh?

How about starting with the leadoff batter - who has become an automatic out? You are not going to win when your leadoff batter is never on base, never stealing bases, never scoring runs!

If Morgan is never going to get walks, and get base hits rarely then they need to move him out of the leadoff spot and put someone else in there - like Desmond maybe???

jwg

Posted by: jgoers | May 19, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Certainly agree with dovelevine's comment above about pinch-hitting with Harris last night with runners on 2nd and 3rd and one out. Don't think the lefty/righty match-up thing makes a lot of sense when the players BA is below the Mendoza line.

Posted by: slopitchtom | May 19, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

>>"The Nationals can't put a finger on why the runs have dried up" - huh? How about starting with the leadoff batter - who has become an automatic out?

Agreed and sometimes you have to make a radical decision. Riggs should have pinch hit Gonzalez or Pudge for Nyjer in the 9th. If a guy's in a major slump and you need a hit, you've got to be able to make big moves without worrying about stepping on feet. Not sure Riggs is capable of this.

Posted by: dovelevine | May 19, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

With this drought in hitting this makes me think he Nats should draft Harper. Or at least someone else that has major hitting skills.

Posted by: richs91 | May 19, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Teams slump...get over it, they'll be fine and Riggs will be fine. No panic necessary.

Posted by: cokedispatch | May 19, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Verducci's column in SI is interesting, but he leaves out a key difference between Strasburg and Leake -- a $13 million difference.

Posted by: Bethesdangit1 | May 19, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Man, I love me some Adblock Plus. Bye-bye, "Morning Brushback" logo.

That is all.

No, really, that's all I had to say.

Posted by: Scooter_ | May 19, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

I'm getting older so perhaps my memory is just failing me - but didn't Willie come through with a game winning pinch-hit just two weeks ago (or so)?

Posted by: lowcountry | May 19, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Glad to see Lannan back in decent form last night. Maybe it is just a minor thng with his elbow and not the typical descent into surgery. His velocity and location were pretty good and he gave the club a chance to win.

Posted by: Natmeister | May 19, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Side note on Harper, once the Regional tournaments begin this week, he and his teammates will get to use aluminum bats like most of the rest of the JC teams in the country.
His coach guessed in the Vegas paper today that Harper probably would have had 40 jacks if they had used metal all year.

http://www.lvrj.com/sports/it-s-bombs-away-for-harper--csn-at-district-94233829.html

Posted by: mjhoya12 | May 19, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Oh, your memory's probably fine, lowcountry. The problem is your grossly unwarranted assumption that such ancient history carries any weight with real fans.

Posted by: Scooter_ | May 19, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Random note on the impending Strasburg debut (since we haven’t had our daily flurry). It appears that the many reports of a June 4th debut may be driving sales. The Nats web site has a definite dearth of tickets available for the date at many levels. Yeah, I know – that site can be notoriously unreliable and the Nats have been known to ‘hold back’ tickets, but things are definitely moving for that game – and the rest of the weekend for that matter.

Posted by: gonatsgo1 | May 19, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

I like Storen already. Any baseball player who can (1) recognize he spoke ungrammatically, and (2) make a self-deprecating joke about it that includes the word "Stanford," is special.

And a 0.00 ERA doesn't hurt, either.

Posted by: Meridian1 | May 19, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Nyjer is pressing like everyone else on this team right now and i think he misses Marquis Grissom. I don't think the abscence of Adam Dunn's bat has anything to do with this current slump Dunn has left a ton of men on base so far this season and while their is still time for Dunn to turn it around i haven't seen anything in his approach to improve on his current drought with RISP.

Posted by: dargregmag | May 19, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

I gave him points for the self-deprecation, but a demerit for the Stanford reference. :-)

I also gave him a pass on the grammar because it's baseball talk, dude.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 19, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Scooter. I forget those pesky details sometimes . . . :)

Posted by: lowcountry | May 19, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Scooter: Thanks for the tip on AdBlocker. Now I've hidden the hideous headshot of my boss on my company's website. I owe you big time for that.

Posted by: SorenKierkegaard | May 19, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Hee hee. Glad I could help, Soren. Just recently, it finally occurred to me I could use the ad blocker on pictures I just plain don't like.

Posted by: Scooter_ | May 19, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Scooter, would it be better with a picture of an opposing hitter sprawled in the dirt? Say, oh, I don't know, Chase Utley or somebody like that? Just a thought... :-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 19, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

New format/headshot must be slowing down AK. It's 4:41 and no lineups posted. Mark over at Nats Insider has had lineups posted for an hour or so...Just saying...

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | May 19, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

eh, back in town after a long road trip, I'd cut him some slack.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 19, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

I too was wondering about line ups. I looked up Kearns current stats (they are pretty good right now) in preparation for making a comment this morning. I got sidetracked so the conservation was held by others. I will just say we will see where he is at in June, but I will not be suprised if he is still doing well. I hope Bernadina keeps imnproving at the plate. Anyway lets hope we get 4 out of 5 of the Mets/Os and win on Sunday when I will be in attendance.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

Posted by: adhardwick | May 19, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse

What the Nats need is pitching b/c the pitching on the whole has been terrible thus far

We are barely getting by with it

Our hitting will produce enough to win this season if we can get people out from the mound

Posted by: Bious | May 19, 2010 5:37 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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