Last December, Nationals manager Davey Johnson said the slogan for the 2013 season would be “World Series or bust.” His take on Wednesday? “It looks more like bust.” The Nationals are 52-56 and were 11 games out of first in the NL East before Atlanta’s game Thursday night. Here are three low points that have helped define the season.
An Error and Strasburg’s Collapse (May 11 vs. Cubs)
Even when he’s pitched well, Stephen Strasburg has had a season to forget. A May 11 start against the Cubs was the epitome of Strasburg’s season. After the Nationals were able to retire 13 of Chicago’s first 14 batters, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman committed a throwing error that otherwise would have ended the top of the fifth inning. From there, Strasburg fell apart, giving up a walk, a double, another walk and two consecutive singles. Strasburg didn’t return for the sixth inning and the Nationals went on to lose 8-2.
Losing the Beltway Series (May 27-30 vs. Orioles)
The Orioles have been competitive all season in arguably baseball’s toughest division, with a record of 59-49 before Thursday night’s game against Houston. When Baltimore faced Washington in a four-game series in late May, the Orioles took three out of four games and scored a total of 20 runs. After taking the second game 9-3, the Nationals dropped the next two 9-6 and 2-0. Like the Nationals, the Orioles are going for a second straight playoff berth, but it looks like only one of them has a shot at the postseason this year.
Doomsday in Detroit (Tuesday and Wednesday vs. Tigers)
The Nationals, riding a three-game winning streak, had a chance to build upon some success with a two-game series in Detroit this week. With the back end of the rotation getting the job done in three wins against the Mets, there was some optimism with Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez starting against the Tigers. That optimism waned quickly. Strasburg struggled in a 5-1 loss and Gonzalez surrendered 10 earned runs in Wednesday’s 11-1 drubbing.