WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 23: Jordan Zimmermann #27 of the Washington Nationals reacts after giving up a home run in the seventh inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Nationals Park on August 23, 2011 in Washington, DC. Arizona won the game 2-0. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
The Washington Nationals were a combined 1 for 29 with RISP in their three homestand-ending losses to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Their inability to drive runners in, they stranded a total of 26 runners over the three games in which they were outscored 14-3, put pressure on the pitchers to avoid making mistakes, knowing any one could cost them in what was for the most part a tightly-contested series with the NL West's best.
After last night's loss, in which Nats' lefty John Lannan threw six scoreless and surrendered two runs on a monster HR that provided all the scoring Arizona would need in what ended up an 8-1 win, Lannan was asked about the pressure of pitching for a team that's struggled to drive runners in. "You've just got to bear down and keep it as close as you can," Lannan told reporters, "You can only control what you can control and that's just throwing strikes."
The Nats dropped a 4-2 decision on Wednesday, rallying for two solo HR's in the ninth after Livan Hernandez had held Washington as close as he could through 8.2 IP. "I don't think about something like that," the veteran right-hander said when he too was asked about the lack of run support. "I go and try to do my job and try to do my best and always go on the mound and try to give the team a chance to win. That's what I do."
Five of John Lannan's ten losses this season have been one-run losses. The Nats have been shut out in five of Livan Hernandez's twelve losses, two of them 1-0 losses, two of them 2-0 losses. Six of Jordan Zimmermann's eleven losses have come in one-run games, and the Nationals have offered no support in three of his 23 outings this season including the last on Thursday night which saw him surrender just two runs on a HR in 6.1 innings of work in a 2-0 loss to the D-Backs.
"It's just something that makes it like you've got to be perfect," Zimmermann told reporters, "and if they get runs early you can settle in and not have to be so perfect, but it's baseball, and [Ian] Kennedy pitched a good game today and you have to tip your cap to him."
Nats' Skipper Davey Johnson, after last night's loss, said he doesn't know what the problem with the offense has been. "Everybody had a chance to drive in a run early," Johnson said, "we just didn't go up there and do it. I think we've been making a lot of progress offensively. Today wasn't one of our better games." Asked if the lack of offense puts pressure on his pitchers to be perfect as Zimmerman described, Johnson told reporters, "It sure does. When the bats are silent pitchers think that they've got to be a little finer than normal and that's not good."
"I give a little credit to their pitching staff," the Nationals' manager said, "but I just think we kind of had a little letdown. I mean, the last three days what did we score? Three runs? That's not too good." Johnson said he planned to have conversations with his players during the six-game road trip. "We're better than we showed, but we took a lot of third strikes, and we took pitches that we could drive. We weren't doing much."
After the 1 for 29 with RISP in the three straight losses to the D-Backs, the Nats have the second-worst team AVG in the NL with RISP (.226), third-worst OBP (.325), and the fourth-worst SLG (.358). Overall, the Nats' .241/.309/.379 slash has them second-worst in AVG and OBP with the fourth-lowest SLG, and fourth-lowest BABIP (.288) and third-lowest wRC+ (which Doghouse explains, "[measures] everything a player can do to help his team score runs in one number...a wRC+ of 120 created 20-percent more runs than average, while a player with a wRC+ of 75 created 25-percent less runs than average.") On the year the Nats' are at 88 wRC+, to St. Louis' NL-leading 109.
Nothing like a road trip, where the Nats' have the league's worst AVG (.228), second-lowest OBP (.298 to Atlanta's .296) and the NL's worst SLG (.357) to help Washington turn things around. After the 5-5 homestand, the Nationals are now 37-28 in Nationals Park and they head back out on the road with a 25-39 road record so far having gone 4-5 on the last nine-game swing through Colorado, Chicago and Philadelphia.