One of the byproducts of the Nationals’ struggling offense in the first half of last season was the inability to come back, especially late. After falling behind, the Nationals wilted under relievers.
Through two weeks of this season, there is already a noticeable change. The Nationals have come back to win four times in 13 games, including a five-run comeback. The Nationals have outscored opponents, 33-14, from the seventh inning on. They lead the majors with a .303/.381/.529 slash line from the seventh inning.
Over the season, the Nationals’ strong early numbers will likely regress. They have faced the Mets and Marlins bullpens often. Last year, however, they finished 24th in the majors with a .231/.293/.365 slash line from the seventh inning on.
“It’s just baseball,” shortstop Ian Desmond said. “Sometimes you score runs and sometimes you don’t. I’m sure at some point this season there’s going to be a nine-game, 10-game window [where we don’t]. It’s still early. Hopefully we’re on top of it through the course of the year. It’s a great sign.”
On Monday, the Nationals chased left-handed starter Brad Hand after five runs and three innings and then battered long reliever Kevin Slowey for four more runs. While the Nationals struggled against the Atlanta Braves over the weekend, they mounted two spirited comebacks from deficits of 4-0 and 5-4 on Friday. They were dominated by the Braves bullpen last season but scored four runs in 11 innings against them this past series. The issue was, however, that the Nationals weren’t as productive against Mets starters in the opening series and Braves starters in both series.
“When you’re scoring late, that’s huge,” hitting coach Rick Schu said over the weekend. “We just don’t panic. I think guys stay the course and stick with their approach and hopefully it turns. I think there’s the dugout is loose and guys know what they have to do to have success.”
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