Recent offensive woes no cause for alarm
After being shut out once in their first 68 games, the Washington Nationals have put up zero runs twice in their past five, including Wednesday's 1-0 setback to Kansas City that gave Stephen Strasburg his first loss in the major leagues.
Over their last six games, the Nationals have scored 10 runs total and four times have scored two runs or fewer. Not coincidentally, Washington is 2-4 over that stretch, but Manager Jim Riggleman gave a mostly positive assessment of his team's offense despite the recent downturn.
"When you look at your ballclub, you feel like, 'Well, we should be scoring more runs,' [getting] some timely hitting, that kind of stuff," Riggleman said a few hours before the Nationals were to open their three-game series in Baltimore today. "But as you go around the game, everybody is saying the same thing. All the coaches and managers are saying the same thing. . . .
"I'm encouraged by the effort. I want us to keep putting runners out there. Give us a chance to score runs. If we don't get it done, we've got to find a way a different way to win the ballgame. I always look at hitting as it's a great plus if we get it. We can't assume we're going to get it. We've got to pitch and play defense and find ways to win games when we're not hitting."
Several of the main culprits in the lineup include shortstop Ian Desmond, infielder Cristian Guzman and center fielder Nyjer Morgan, who during Washington's most recent six-game homestand went 4 for 20 with three walks, one steal and no runs. That lack of production from the regular leadoff hitter has had a ripple effect throughout the lineup.
Guzman, meantime, had gotten off to a fine start in compiling a .345 batting average over the first two months of the season. Since May 25, however, he has gone 25 for 102 (.245 during that span) to lower his batting season average to .303. Desmond, a rookie, is hitting .229 this month and over the past five games is 0 for 14 with seven strikeouts.
All-star third baseman Ryan Zimmerman also has had a June to forget, going 17 for 71, including 3 for 19 with runners in scoring position.
"Hitting comes and goes," Riggleman said. "It's a very difficult thing to do. Even the big-time hitters sometimes get in a slump, and if two or three of them are in a slump at the same time, again, you may only score a couple runs, and if that's the case, you've got to find a way to hold the other club down."
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