The Washington Nationals began this season optimistic they would be able to produce at the plate thanks most notably to the additions of Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche. Those players were supposed to help soften the departures of Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham, who along with Ryan Zimmerman formed the most potent part of the Nationals’ lineup last season.
After 12 games this season, the offense is struggling mightily, and it’s no coincidence Werth and LaRoche are as well, while Zimmerman is out for several weeks with an abdominal injury.
Werth is hitting .217 with two homers and two RBI in 46 at-bats. LaRoche is batting .211 with one home run and three RBI in 38 at-bats. As a team, the Nationals are second to last in the National League with a .213 cumulative batting average and a .315 slugging percentage.
The Nationals are second to last in the NL in hits and total bases and 12th in runs and RBI. Only four teams in the NL have fewer than Washington’s eight home runs.
Manager Jim Riggleman said, however, following a 4-0 loss to Philadelphia last night that no major changes are in store for the start of a three-game series against Milwaukee today in which former Nationals center fielder and leadoff hitter Nyjer Morgan will make his return to the nation’s capital.
“I like to show patience with the guys,” Manager Jim Riggleman said of the Nationals’ offensive woes. “They’re agonizing over it. They’re kicking it around in there. They’re not too happy about these last two nights’ performance offensively, and they’ll get with [hitting coach] Rick [Eckstein] and see if we can come up with something.”
The lack of production has been especially pronounced at the leadoff spot, where Ian Desmond has been slow to develop. The shortstop is hitting .180 after going 0 for 4 last night against Phillies starter Cliff Lee, who allowed three hits and struck out 12 in tossing a shutout.
“I don’t think anyone here is discouraged,” Desmond said. “If we’re going to move in the direction this organization thinks that we’re going to move in, we’re going to have to beat pitchers like that.”
Morgan, meantime, is hitting .462 with Milwaukee, although he doesn’t hit first for the Brewers. Morgan has had a pair of multi-hit games this season, and last night he had an RBI double in the ninth in a 4-1 victory over Pittsburgh.
Morgan made headlines earlier this season when he told a Milwaukee radio station the Nationals wanted “to get rid” of him and that he appreciates being in a baseball city now, intimating the District was not. He was in the news last season for several on-field incidents, including throwing a ball into the stands after an exchange with Phillies fans and twice colliding with a catcher at home plate on controversial plays.
Morgan also has said, according to recent reports, that a spring training confrontation between him and Werth prompted the trade to the Brewers, which yielded prospect Cutter Dykstra and cash considerations.
“I’m happy for Nyjer,” Riggleman said. “He’s doing a great job over there for Milwaukee. He was a model citizen in spring training and played with energy and passion and all that. The only reason Nyjer’s not here is because we made a decision that [Rick] Ankiel would probably get most of the at-bats at center and didn’t see that Nyjer was going to fit for us as a fourth outfielder, so I think we put him in a better situation, and hopefully we got a player for him that will help us down the line.”
FROM THE POST
The Nationals get a strong outing from Jordan Zimmermann but can’t solve Cliff Lee in a 4-0 loss in the rubber match against the Phillies.
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse 3, Pawtucket 2 (Game 1, nine innings): The Chiefs take advantage of four Red Sox errors for the victory.
Syracuse 4, Pawtucket 1 (Game 2, seven innings): Center fielder Roger Bernadina led the Chiefs offense with three RBI, and starter Ross Detwiler threw six innings in his second start of the year.
Lexington 7, Hagerstown 0: The Suns manage just five hits over eight innings against starter Tanner Bushue.
Harrisburg 4, Trenton 2: Jesus Valdez drives in two runs for the Senators.