The cameras and microphones and tape recorders clambered toward Werth’s corner of the room. He was ready to deliver his message after the Nationals’ 5-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates plunged them to a new depth. The Nationals have lost five consecutive games and 10 of their past 12. They have reached a season-worst four games under .500 at 48-52. In the first game of hitting coach Rick Schu’s tenure, they had managed three hits and made moot rookie Taylor Jordan’s “stellar” 72
3 innings, in Johnson’s words.
Werth plopped into his chair, pulled a camouflage trucker cap over his slicked-back hair and, having taken stock of the decaying team around him, urged calm.
“Really, the thing about us right now, we’re a little snakebit,” Werth said. “Things aren’t going our way, and we’re not winning games. We need to find a way to win a game. The silver lining is no one else is winning, either.”
Werth alluded primarily to the Atlanta Braves, whose loss to the New York Mets held the Nationals’ deficit at eight games. The Philadelphia Phillies also fell, keeping them one game ahead. The problem with the Braves’ loss is that the Mets’ victory brought them to within two games of third-place Washington.
“The old cliché stands true — one day at a time,” Werth said. “We need to pull back a little bit and put things in perspective and look at the big picture. Right now things are tough. All in all, one day at a time, one pitch at a time, one at-bat at a time, and we need to get this thing turned around. I’ve said it before. I believe in this team. I know it’s getting into late July, but there’s a lot of games to be played, and I still believe in these guys.”
In the morning, Schu reported for his first day of work on the monumental task of righting the Nationals’ offense. His diagnosis? “Relax a little bit and try not to get five hits in four at-bats,” Schu said. “Just kinda take one AB at a time and kinda slow things down a little bit.”
The advice didn’t take against Pirates flamethrower Gerrit Cole, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2011 draft. He held the Nationals to two hits over seven innings, and only Wilson Ramos’s solo homer to center field in the third inning blocked his bid for a shutout.
This may look like a misprint, but it is not: In their past 11 games, the Nationals have gone 6 for 78 with runners in scoring position. Cole limited their chances Monday night, but when they came the Nationals went 0 for 3.
“We’ve been pretty unlucky,” Werth said. “Hitting balls hard at people, guys making good plays on us. You talk about timely hitting. Lately, it’s been untimely hitting. Instead of getting the big hit, we get the ball that ends the rally. It needs to turn around. At some point, the tide has got to turn. Luck’s got to swing in our favor. Hopefully when it does, we can grab hold of it and run with it. It’s tough right now, no doubt.”