Game #14 Nats need to find that explosive offense

The past few days it has been Bryce Harper who has been playing in a funk. He struck out three times yesterday chasing off-speed pitches below the zone and in the dirt. Harper is 2-for-his-last-14 and he has not had an extra base hit since April 8th. As we saw with Harper after the first Cubs series of 2016 when Ryan Zimmerman was slumping, teams were pitching around Harper and that quickly put Harper into a tailspin as he expanded the zone and was swinging at balls outside the zone. Harper wants to swing the bat, and in order to do that he might need protection in the batting order.

After last night’s game, Harper could be seen chirping at the umpire about a called strike earlier in an at-bat. The last thing the Nationals need is a slumping Bryce Harper who started the season en fuego. Harper was batting over .400 and the Washington Post marveled at his new sense of calm — well today Harp enters play batting .286.  We felt that this could happen to Harper because history has a strange way of repeating itself — and the Nats can’t afford that now as they play without Adam Eaton and Daniel Murphy.

“Yeah I thought [Chad Bettis] pitched well,” Harper said with political correctness after last night’s loss. “Fastball, changeup, looked pretty good. He was mixing it up pretty well [in the game] and sometimes that’s going to happen.”

Looking back ten days ago, the offense has been offensive going from 7.0 runs a game to a near drought. The Nats have won just 2 of their last 9 games which is the end result when you can’t out-score your opponent which is the only way to win and counting on shutouts from Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg was how the Nats achieved those 2 wins.

Last year, Trea Turner was the sparkplug on this team batting .284 and stealing bases almost at will. Even though conventional statistics say he does not get on-base enough, his issue is his only infield hit this entire season was from a bunt. At some point, BABIP says it has to turn and Turner’s BABIP is .243 for a player who came into the season above .350 for his career. At some point, the ground balls won’t bounce directly to the shortstop, and he will use his speed for base hits.

Without Adam Eaton and Daniel Murphy, manager Dave Martinez and his hitting coach Kevin Long better figure it out shortly because yesterday’s line-up featured 4 batters who were sub-Mendoza and that just does not work.

“Some guys are generally slow starters, and I am not going to panic,” Dave Martinez said pre-game about his slumping offense. “These guys are going to hit, I know they are. If you are not hitting, help the team another way to win.”

They say hitting is contagious but slumping becomes infectious, and the Nats had the bug yesterday piecing together just 3 hits from the starters.

“We constantly talk about the quick 27 outs,” Martinez said about his team on defense. “Let’s get a quick 27 outs, that’s what we preach all the time. If you do that, you’ve got a good chance to win. Don’t give the team an extra out or two outs, cause that’s when you tend to put yourself in a hole, and they know that. We talk about that every single day. These little things. We’re going to start hitting, but what I’d like is for them to come out every day and compete and run the bases hard and play good defense.”

Tonight the Nationals pitch Tanner Roark against the Rockies lefty Kyle Freeland. The Nationals have countered with a right-handed heavy line-up.

Colorado Rockies vs. Washington Nationals
Stadium:  Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.
1st Pitch: 7:05 pm EDT
TV: MASN; MLB App out-of-market; MLB Network (out-of-market)
Nats Radio: 106.7 The Fan and via the MLB app

Line-ups subject to change without notice:

  1. Trea Turner SS
  2. Anthony Rendon 3B
  3. Bryce Harper RF
  4. Ryan Zimmerman 1B
  5. Howie Kendrick LF
  6. Michael Taylor CF
  7. Wilmer Difo 2B
  8. Pedro Severino C
  9. Tanner Roark RHP
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