The Nationals left Atlanta battered and frustrated. Over the weekend, they lost Ryan Zimmerman and Denard Span to injuries and the disabled list. Jayson Werth and Nate McLouth got nicked up. Their starting pitchers struggled. They were swept by the Braves and all five of their losses this season have come against their division foe. The Nationals, in fact, have lost 18 of the past 25 meetings between the teams. Each game of the series got worse for the Nationals and was capped by a 10-2 drubbing.
“It’s going to happen sometimes but we can’t do is get out of ourselves,” Manager Matt Williams said. “Don’t allow anything to take you out of your game. It didn’t work for us this weekend but we’ve got another game [Monday]. We have to concentrate on that.”
Below are a few takeaways, not all gloomy, about the weekend. The season is only two weeks old; there is plenty of time for things to change.
>>> Bryce Harper has emerged from his early season funk. After starting the season 3 for 21 with one walk and 10 strikeouts, Harper is 10 for his last 21 with one home run, four RBI, four walks and six strikeouts. He looks more relaxed at the plate and is doing a better job of taking the pitches he is given. “I feel pretty good,” Harper said.
Harper is now hitting .310. The extra-base hits are slowly picking back up.
“His swing is shorter, he’s seeing the ball better,” Manager Matt Williams said. “He’s not pulling off the ball like he was, staying through it. And taking his walks, too, when they’re giving it to him. That’s good.”
>>> Kevin Frandsen is off to a hot start. Williams have given Frandsen favorable matchups so far — starting against a left-hander and a right-hander who he has seen well in limited chances — but he has made the most of them. Signed just before the season started, Frandsen is 7 for 15 with two walks as a National. Over the weekend alone, he went 5 for 8 with game-tying single and a walk.
With Zimmerman out for at least a month, Frandsen will likely see more playing time, perhaps in the infield. He can start at second over Danny Espinosa in a favorable matchup or spell Anthony Rendon at third. He has also looked fairly comfortable in his two starts in left field, making a nice running catch near foul territory on Sunday. He is a valuable pinch-hitting option and he is 2 for 5 already this season in those situations.
>>> The Nationals need a better plan against Justin Upton and Freddie Freeman. Freeman has crushed Nationals pitching, left- and right-handed, through two series: he is 11 for 22 with two home runs and five RBI against them this season. Upton has caught fire over the past week and smashed two home runs and had five RBI against the Nationals this series.
“It’s two very hot hitters and us not making the pitches we want to make in the location we want to make them,” Williams said. “And that spells disaster sometimes. Next time we play them, we’ll have to re-evaluate that and what that gameplan is and move forward from it.”
>>> The Nationals are making mistakes. The Nationals fell behind early after command struggles by starters in three straight games. The Nationals committed seven errors over the weekend while the Braves committed two. Ian Desmond was charged with four errors in the series, and now has five on the season. The Nationals have made 13 errors in 12 games, tied with the Chicago White Sox for the major league lead. “We’re shooting ourselves in the foot,” Desmond said.
The offense went 7 for 34 with runners in scoring position. The Nationals committed a handful of base-running mistakes, from getting caught in rundowns after failed bunts to getting picked off at second. The Nationals have stolen only four bases, the second lowest total in baseball, and have been caught three times. The self-inflicted wounds bother Williams.
“It bothers everybody,” he said. “But that’s going to happen. You certainly don’t want it with consistency. But there’s nothing we can do about it now except go and play well. That’s the focus.”
FROM THE POST
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Scranton/WB 7, Syracuse 1: Omar Poveda allowed six runs on 10 hits over four innings. Emmanel Burriss and Brian Goodwin each had a hit while Jhonatan Solano drove in the lone run.
Harrisburg 9, Reading 3: A.J. Cole collected his second win after allowing one run on three hits and struck out five over five innings. Michael Taylor went 2 for 3 with a home run and four RBI. Caleb Ramsey went 2 for 2 with two RBI. Destin Hood went 4 for 5 and scored two runs.
Carolina 12, Potomac 2: Nick Lee allowed five runs on five walks and one hit over 1 2/3 innings. Ian Dickson allowed five runs over 4 1/3 innings. Cole Leonida hit a two-run home run.
Hagerstown 6, Lakewood 1: Jake Johansen won his first game after allowing only one run on two hits, walking four and striking out six over five innings. Ryan Ullmann pitched four scoreless innings of relief. John Wooten went 2 for 4 with two RBI. James Yezzo also had two hits.