Getting aggressive when the game calls for patience has been part of the problem for the Washington Nationals. Last night in the first inning, Braves’ pitcher Charlie Morton had thrown 7 straight pitches out of the zone. With runners on second base and first base with one out in a 3-0 count, Josh Bell swung at an inside fastball but swung late. The ball was popped up to the left side for an easy second out, and Morton locked in from there and finished the next batter off with three quick strikes to finish the inning. Nobody knows what would have happened if Bell showed the patience to see what the 3-1 pitch would have been.
Aggression has not paid off lately for the Nats and after 3-0 counts this season, the Nats have a .659 OBP and a .949 OPS. Only the Nats two best hitters, Juan Soto and Trea Turner, have hits in 3-0 spots. In fact, Soto’s hit on that 3-0 pitch happened on Opening Day for a walk-off single. But seriously, you reserve those spots for your best hitters, and the right situation. Bell took that swing as he was mired in an 0-11 slump. Sure, he hit a home run in his next at-bat, and the baseball gods felt sorry for him if you believe in that stuff. But it still doesn’t excuse getting aggressive in a game that says if you’re patient in that situation you will reach base at a pace of almost 66 of 100 times. You can’t find odds like that in Vegas and that would be like taking a hit in Blackjack when you have 17 and the dealer is showing a 2 up. Nothing is 100 percent in baseball, but you take 66% odds all day long.
You cannot force things in baseball because when you do — you make mistakes. The whole part of the “keep the line moving” mantra is trusting in your teammates. If you really want to get in the pitcher’s head, show bunt and pull the bat back in 3-0 or crowd the plate. Your main job there is to move the line and work the pitcher, and if all goes right you get an RBI.
The Nats are mired in a 5-game losing streak because they continue to not do the little things right. Doing the little things right has been a mantra of manager Dave Martinez. The team had a meeting yesterday in the pre-game, and maybe it helped because they actually had their best offensive output in a while — unfortunately, starter Joe Ross, gave up one more run than the Nats scored and they lost.
Have you seen those S.O.B. shirts that some of the Nats bench players have been wearing? The acronym is for: STUDS OFF THE BENCH and rightfully so as Nationals pinch hitters lead the National League in batting average (.303), on-base percentage (.369) and slugging percentage (.500) with a healthy .869 OPS.
• The .303 batting average is 50 points higher than the next best National League club (SDP, .253).
• As a group, they are 23-for-76 with four doubles, one triple, three homers, three RBIs, seven walks and 11 runs scored.
• As a pinch hitter, Andrew Stevenson ranks tied for first in Major League Baseball with a .429 batting average (6-for-14).
In other news, the Nats will pitch Jon Lester tomorrow on 3-days rest given that he only threw 74 pitches on Saturday. Lester was supposed to pitch the Friday night game that was rained out.
Washington Nationals vs. Atlanta Braves
Stadium: Truist Park, Atlanta, Georgia
1st Pitch: 7:20 pm EDT
TV: MASN, Bally Sports South, MLB.TV
Nats Radio: 106.7 FM The Fan; SiriusXM® ( Streaming Internet 869)
Line-ups subject to change without notice: