There’s been a common theme among Nationals pitchers over the past few days about why they have struggled: Too many pitches are left up the strike zone. Edwin Jackson left too many across the plate in his start on Wednesday. Craig Stammen and Ryan Mattheus did the same, too.
Most of the Nationals pitchers, with the exception of Drew Storen, Tom Gorzelanny and Tyler Clippard, have struggled against the Cardinals. Long a strength all season, the team’s pitching is now a weakness. Though it’s a small sample size, they have posted a 7.27 ERA during the three-game series compared to the Cardinals’ 1.67 ERA.
“With the bullpen, the problems that we have gone into is that we leave the ball up,” veteran reliever Michael Gonzalez said. “We don’t put it where we need to be. We need to hit our spots and stay aggressive. We need to keep doing what we’ve been doing all year. We’ve been successful doing that.”
But the obvious question is why?
“We have some power arms, and you can get by if you can keep the ball on one side of the plate at times when there’s not a lot of good hitters in the lineup, because hitters make adjustments if you stay one way,” Nationals Manager Davey Johnson said. “And I don’t care – I mean, I don’t care if Sandy Koufax – he could pitch with his fastball, but he had a great curveball and fastball and pitched in and out. You have to use all your weapons and you’re facing a good club. And when you get to this time of the year, all the clubs are good.”
Some scouts have questioned if the Nationals, a team comprised of mostly young and inexperienced pitchers, are tiring and worn down by the grind of the season. If so, they would never admit it at this time of the season, when adrenaline kicks in after the long season. But they insist they aren’t worn down.
“I don’t think it has anything to do with being tired,” Gonzalez said. “Maybe a little amped, leaving the ball up a little bit and not hitting our spots. Again, that comes with experience and them coming out there and doing it. I guarantee you that some of these guys that have been through it now understand what they need to do.”