The Nationals are stuck in neutral.
Each time the club appears poised for a winning streak, its momentum abruptly comes to a halt. Big offensive outings are routinely followed by poor performances at the plate.
Though the Nationals have dealt with injuries, most recently to Bryce Harper (knee bursitis) and Danny Espinosa (wrist), the general feeling inside the clubhouse is there’s enough talent to produce more than it has.
“We definitely haven’t gotten going like we were hoping to get going,” center fielder Denard Span said. “There’s really no explanation for it. We just haven’t played good, I’ll be honest. All across the board.”
In a 7-6 win over Cleveland on Saturday, Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond, Chad Tracy and Anthony Rendon each hit home runs. The following day, the Nationals were held scoreless in a 2-0 loss.
These types of inconsistencies have become commonplace with Washington.
“We’ve been hitting the ball hard but haven’t been able to drive in the key runs at the right times,” said pitcher Jordan Zimmermann. “We’re playing good ball, pitching well and hitting. We’re not getting the key hits. I think they’ll start coming.”
In a sense, the Nationals could be thankful they’re hovering around the .500 mark with just under a month until the All-Star break. They’re near the bottom in almost every major hitting category in baseball. Heading into Monday’s game, Washington ranked 28th in batting average (.233), 28th in runs (3.5 per game), 28th in on-base percentage (.292) and 29th in hits (7.6 per game). Even so, the Nationals players remain optimistic.
“We never put any limitations on where we want to be,” catcher Kurt Suzuki said. “We do feel we’re swinging the bats better. Timely hitting obviously helps. Everybody feels we’re going in the right direction.”
Washington’s longest winning streak has been five games, during a stretch from May 4 to May 10. The Nationals followed it by losing four of their next five. However, it could be worse. Even with the inconsistencies, the Nationals are still second in the NL East and within striking distance of first-place Atlanta.
“We’ll find a way like we did last year,” shortstop Ian Desmond said. “Last year, we were missing guys throughout the whole season and we just found a way. It’s about hitting your stride and moving forward.”