Coming through in two-out situations isn’t supposed to be an easy task, but the Nationals are making it look especially difficult of late.
The most recent example of those struggles came in Friday night’s 5-3 loss to the Padres, in which the Nats’ lineup couldn’t get the big knock against 23-year-old right hander Luis Perdomo, a rookie starter who came into the game sporting a 7.36 ERA.
“That’s been our nemesis,” manager Dusty Baker said. “People ask me, you know, what do we need? We need some timely, two-out base hits. Not home runs.”
Indeed, when the Nats have big nights offensively, it’s usually because they powered their way to get there. They entered Friday tied for first in the National League with 132 homers through 96 games. And even against the Padres, two of Washington's three runs on the night came via solo shots from Jayson Werth and Daniel Murphy.
So the issue hasn’t been overall scoring, per se. The issue has been scoring in clutch situations without having to rely on the long ball. Against the Perdomo and the Padres, the Nats went 1-for-5 with two outs and runners in scoring position, including an 0-for-4 stretch after the first inning. That won’t help their season average in that category (.221), which ranked 21st in the majors prior to the game.
So it’s no mystery to Baker about what has to be fixed.
“At this stage of the game, almost two-thirds of the season gone, we gotta make some changes,” the skipper said of the Nats’ two-out approach. “We’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting, and it’s getting frustrating on the guys and frustrating on fans and frustrating to us, too.”
When asked about the Nats' recent woes, Bryce Harper chalked it up to the typical up-and-down nature of the long season.
"I don't think we need to change much at all,” said Harper, who’s 6-for-20 in those situations on the year. "I think we're a great team. I think we're swinging the bats well.
“Sometimes you line out and get out. Sometimes you hit right into shifts. Sometimes you strikeout, sometimes you walk. It's part of the game.”
Perhaps it is just part of the game. But it is also hard to ignore that the Nats have gone 6-for-41 with runners in scoring position over their last five games, four of them losses.
But Baker, ever the optimist, believes it won't take long before his team turns it around.
“I just urge everybody, don’t panic," he said. "Just let us play and we’ll come out of this.”