One-run losses are piling up. The value of run manufacturing and run prevention!

Everything seemed so right on May 10th, and the next day in a 2-2 tie was the pick-off play that seemed to change everything in that 8th inning. The Boston Pick-off Party started the slide backwards. Since that point, the team has gone just 2-9. A team known for its great baserunning got Victor Robles off of the IL for his second start, and the TOOTBLANs were back. Sloppy. Maybe that turned a team that was capitalizing on good baserunning into being more conservative in that 11-game stretch. This was how the team was manufacturing runs in their first 37-games. Also, manager Dave Martinez looked a lot smarter when his team was executing.

In the last game, Nasim Nunez should have been stealing second base in the 9th inning. We don’t know why he didn’t. Of course it is a risk. Last year baserunners were successful stealing on Twins’ closer Jhoan Duran, 8-of-9 times. This year in his previous 8.2 innings of work, only one baserunner tried to steal off of him and was caught. But he wasn’t Nunez.

But let’s rewind two innings earlier in that game. The bigger question might be, why didn’t you pinch-hit for the Nats’ worst hitter, Joey Gallo? He is the worst RBI batter on the team with a .080 RISP and no RBIs on productive outs. Four of his five RBIs are from his three home runs. Strikeout probability in that exact situation had to be over 50 percent. Gallo didn’t disappoint … Twins fans who saw him do that 142 times last year when he was on the Minnesota roster. The chance of him coming through in that situation against a struggling lefty reliever with a 5+ ERA was the wrong move. It was clearly lefty killer Nick Senzel and his 1.017 OPS against lefties, and probably much higher against a lefty in a jam like Kody Funderstruck Funderburk was. Why do you have Senzel if you aren’t going to use him in that spot? Runners on third and second base and no outs. The score was a 2-0 deficit at the time. The value of scoring just one-run at that point was immense.

That was a winnable game. In Gallo’s spot, you did not even need a hit. A productive out would have worked. Of course you had better odds for a Senzel homer. He has five in this season, and more than double Gallo’s RBI production. We won’t know Martinez’s true feelings. The assembled media didn’t even bother asking. Later in the game, Senzel was used to pinch-hit in a bases empty situation. What a waste.

Even when the Nationals were winning we were writing about the offensive problems while also addressing some of the defensive problems, and overall sloppiness. The reason you address that is because we recognized at the time to keep winning the team had areas to improve on. You can still win by playing poorly. This team has little margin for error to win games. The manager and coaches have to step up their game too. Yes, players have to execute but a coach’s job is to put their players in their best situation to succeed for themselves and the team. Gallo in that spot against Funderburk was not the play.

We say all the time that defense matters, and if you think the defense and offense will get better when Lane Thomas returns, think again. He left as a -0.3 WAR player and the worst defender on the team (on a per game basis) per Statcast’s OAA at a -3.0, and keep in mind that those stats are cumulative so by missing a month he might be a -6.0 now. We saw Thomas in a rehab start in Harrisburg last night do the same thing he had been doing for the Nats where he won’t aggressively charge balls. If not for his gun of an arm, he’d be unplayable with his poor defense, and .184 batting average and anemic .503 OPS. Going back to August 8th of last year forward through this season for Thomas, the numbers for those 68 games are not great. He batted a combined .205 with a .257 OBP a SLG of .363 and an OPS of .619. So Thomas is really in a long funk dating back to August of 2023. Of course he will get a chance to show he can be the Thomas of the mid-season of 2023 who looked like an All-Star.

What this team needed was an infusion of real talent in the offseason, and even last week. They had a chance to call up top prospect James Wood who has been en fuego. Well, Wood was removed from yesterday’s game reportedly with hamstring tightness. With no help from outside the team, they are going to have to improve internally. Fingers have been firmly pointed at hitting coach Darnell Coles. His guys are last in the Majors in barreling up balls, and bottom three in runs scored even as a team with the second most stolen bases in baseball. The team is bottom four in batting average and OPS too. Martinez needs someone(s) to step up.

As we ask, is the problem the teacher or the student or a combination of both? It doesn’t help that CJ Abrams hasn’t hit a homer since April, and Jesse Winker hurt his back. The flu that hit the team zapped any power from Keibert Ruiz, and he has the lowest bat speed on the team. This team has to take advantage of any statistical advantage they have. That appears to be speed. In order to do that, you have to get on-base. This might shock you but the Nats have a higher team OBP than the Orioles. The difference is the Orioles are a power hitting team. They drive in runs with power. The Nats only have 20 home runs in the past 30 days. The Oakland A’s have 40 in the same time frame.

“We’re in a good place. Now it just boils down to execution. I love our group. Our group will continue to fight every day, and we’ll be fine.”

— Coles said as quoted in the Washington Post. Is he delusional?

Part of the solution is admitting you have a problem, and clearly Coles won’t admit it. This team is not in a good place. Start with hustle at all times. Everyone can do that. At least show effort like we get from Jacob Young who puts it all on the line even when his team is losing 10-0.

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