The same ole mess, different day!

There seems to be a reoccurring script to these Washington Nationals games with the same dark comedy. The elements are: 1. The other team takes the lead 2. Bad base running 3. Bad defense 4. One pitch at-bats 5. Bad umpiring leads to a run 7. Lack of hustle 8. Bad luck 9. Nats lose

That script just repeats on a loop to a point of disbelief that this just happens over and over. Sometimes it is the same actor playing the same part which makes this even worse. Some fans are convinced the umpires are out to get the Nationals.

1. The Nationals opponents score the first run of a game almost 62 percent of the time which is the worst mark in baseball. Last night, according to the script, it happened again.

2. Like clockwork, a Nats player makes a bad baserunning play. Last night, it was CJ Abrams again with a pickoff. The pitcher turned towards him and Abrams did not even flinch. It was as if he was in a trance. So he took off running for second base and was easily tagged out. Abrams leads the Majors in getting picked-off this season. Add to that his eight running mistakes on the bases from a sundry list of infractions plus his MLB worst nine caught stealing. That’s a lot of bases that Abrams has removed himself from. Not good at all.

“He’s trying to take that extra shuffle step — and we’ve talked to him about doing that. He takes a big lead anyway, and he doesn’t need to get that far out. I think teams are on to him on taking a lead like that. He’s getting picked-off quite a bit. I’m going to talk to him again about it — I’ve talked to him more than once. He’s got to stay still. … He’s really got to read the pitcher.”

— manager Dave Martinez on CJ Abrams getting picked-off again

3. The bad defense is the most common element and they are like errors. Routine plays that should be made. This time it was Ildemaro Vargas playing left field and a weak fly ball was hit towards the left field foul line. Abrams ran after it with no shot of catching it, and Vargas stopped running less than five feet where the ball dropped in front of him for a bloop double. While the runner was stranded at second base, it is the extra pitches thrown to get the extra out. Then you had catcher Keibert Ruiz who sets-up in the one knee down position. That is fine. The problem is he gets lazy sometimes and won’t raise his body up on high pitches. He called for a high fastball, and the 92.1 mph Four-Seam Fastball came in at the batter’s eye level. Out of the hand you called the pitch. You know it is a straight fastball. You see it high. Why aren’t you getting your body up? Ruiz stuck his arm up like a kid in school raising his hand to get the teacher’s attention. Come on Keibert. Get your body up. This is a recurring problem with Ruiz. It is bad form. Of course the extra base would result in a run, and it did. You can’t give away free 90’s.

4. This time the first one-pitch at-bat of the game was not on Abrams although he tried to do it to lead-off the game, and true to form he did lunge for a pitch that literally was in the right-handers batter’s box to begin the game. It was Luis Garcia Jr. who had the first one-pitch at-bat for the Nats to begin the second inning with a lazy fly-out. To Garcia’s credit, he later had the best at-bat of his career in a 12-pitch battle that resulted in a single. But watching Abrams in the third inning groundout on one pitch was soooo CJ. Then there was Lane Thomas to begin the sixth inning on a popout way outside in a one-pitch AB which was just more of the same. The script wouldn’t be right if Eddie Rosario didn’t have one of those at-bats, and he obliged to lead-off the seventh inning with a one-pitch groundout. Every team knows the batters who will chase first pitch strikes out of the zone, and there was plenty of at-bats starting in 0-1 holes.

5. Bad umpiring in key at-bats. Jacob Barnes came in from the bullpen with the score at 2-0. He should have had a strikeout on the first batter he faced. The high strike was seemingly there all game until that point, and this was a legitimate strike. Instead of a K on the next pitch, it was a home run two pitches later. The umpire was all over the place for both teams, but the results on this pitch changed much of the game.

7. The lack of hustle is not a huge issue for this team except for one player: Eddie Rosario. He has dog’d it many times. Yes, he hit a routine groundball — but run, don’t jog it out.

8. Bad luck. Sure, the normal bad luck BABIP was alive and well. Jacob Young hit a double and moved up to third base on an Abram’s groundout. With Thomas up and one out, Thomas hit a screamer right to the third baseman who was hugging the line. Young did nothing wrong with his lead, and when Thomas hit the grounder, Young’s first instinct was to lunge back to third base but he would have been a dead duck. So Young stayed in a rundown long enough to get Thomas to second base. It was just the extreme bad luck factor of that one play. Two fee to the fielder’s left side, and it’s an RBI single or groundout.

9. The Nats lost by a final score of 3-1. The value of three plays were the difference in the game. A wild pitch. An umpire’s bad call. Bad luck. The Nats pitching was actually good. The Nats offense was left on the West Coast road trip.

Why does this team and in particular, Dave Martinez managed teams, play like this over and over? This is a problem. Stop swinging at first pitches if you are leading off the inning. There is no ambush factor. Every team knows it. Most times it does not even need to be a strike thrown to a Nats hitter. The chase rate is awful. How many times will Abrams take himself off of the bases with bad base running plays? How many more times will we have to watch Ruiz not raise his body up on a high pitch, only to have it be a wild pitch? The Nationals lead MLB in wild pitches thrown — sorry, that isn’t all on the pitchers. This is a personnel and coaching issue on better form.

Change is coming on Monday with James Wood‘s promotion. One player will leave. Hopefully with better players, the comedy of the Keystone Cops, will come to a fitting end. It will take more than just Wood. This team has a few more players to get rid of. For those who thought the rollercoaster of ineptitude would end when Victor Robles was released — they were wrong. Abrams is keeping the memory of Robles alive and well — and not in a good way. This is unacceptable. The coaching staff has not fixed any of this. Embarrassing.

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