Managers talk often about executing when opportunities arise. During the past two losses against the Phillies, the Nationals have squandered a handful. Three times over the past 12 innings, the Nationals have had a leadoff runner on second and failed to move them over a base. In two of those instances, the Nationals had a runner double to start an inning, yet failed to advance.
In Monday’s loss, Ian Desmond doubled to start the seventh inning and the next three batters — Bryce Harper, Wilson Ramos and Danny Espinosa — saw three combined pitches and all flied out, two to left field. An inning later, Kevin Frandsen doubled and the Denard Span popped up, Anthony Rendon lined out, Jayson Werth walked and then Adam LaRoche grounded out. And finally, on Tuesday, after Frandsen singled and took second on a wild pitch with no outs and two strikes, Gio Gonzalez missed a bunt sign, swung and struck out. Span then lined out and Asdrubal Cabrera grounded out to end the inning.
Manager Matt Williams admitted on Wednesday that he talked to the team about improving on those mistakes of execution.
“It’s important for us,” he said. “Over the course of 162, you’re going to have games where you score lots of runs. But the majority of them will be tight games, low-scoring games and it comes down to your execution. So if we’ve got the guy on second base, you gotta get that guy over. If you’ve got a guy on second with the pitcher up, you’ve gotta get the bunt down and get him to third so we can score a run because it’s really important.
“If we ever get a chance to get to where we want to get to, it’s especially important. It’s good to remind ourselves that, ‘Hey, those really mean something whether it’s first inning or fifth inning or the ninth inning. It’s equally important in all of those innings to execute and be able to take advantage of that run scoring opportunity. It’s important for us.”
According to baseball-reference.com, the Nationals have advanced the runner from second base with no outs 50 percent (102 of 204 plate appearances) of the time this season, which is tied for the third lowest rate in baseball.