A 10-11 record going into Sunday’s series finale in Los Angeles was clearly not how the 2016-17 NL East champion Washington Nationals envisioned their season starting, but as GM Mike Rizzo explained last Wednesday, when he spoke to 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies, it’s not too surprising considering the changes they made this winter and all of the injury issues they’ve dealt with over the first month.
“We haven’t begun to gel with some of the new players we have, the new bench we have, the new coaching staff, the new manager, and don’t forget, you’ve got three of your best players that aren’t in the lineup,” Rizzo said.
“You’re scratching together a lineup with Moises Sierra hitting fifth, and Michael [A.] Taylor and [Wilmer] Difo and [Pedro] Severino and the pitcher, that’s your final five hitters in the lineup and hey, we’re trying to get our footing here. We’re trying to play some good baseball, we’re trying to scratch out some runs, allow our great pitching and great bullpen to keep us in games, and our big boys to carry us.
“[Bryce Harper] has carried us along with Howie Kendrick in the early going, and we’re just trying to scratch together some victories until we get our real lineup in there.”
Harper started the third of three in Chavez Ravine leading the majors with eight home runs, (tied with Mike Trout), and walks (with 28). He was leading the NL in OPS (1.130), and ranked second in runs scored (20), RBIs (19), and SLG (.662) with the third-highest OBP (.469).
Kendrick started the finale with the Dodgers with a .264/.293/.431 line, six doubles, and two home runs in 18 games and 75 plate appearances, filling in at second while Daniel Murphy is out working his way back from offseason knee surgery.
The Nationals are also dealing with more injury issues for Adam Eaton, whose 2017 season ended when he blew out his knee and injured his ankle late last April.
He injured the ankle in the home opener, and landed on the DL after initially trying to play through the pain.
Anthony Rendon did the same, trying to avoid a DL stint after fouling a pitch off his left big toe on April 13th.
He worked to return to the lineup over the last week-plus before he was placed on the 10-Day Disabled List late on Sunday afternoon.
“Davey Martinez has done a magnificent job of managing a really, really short bench,” Rizzo said.
“There were some games there where we were playing — we had a 22-man bench where several guys were not on the DL but were unavailable.”
It didn’t help that Ryan Zimmerman got off to a slow start, as did Trea Turner, and Michael A. Taylor.
All three have shown signs of life at the plate recently, however, and the Nationals hope to have Adam Eaton back this week, Rendon back when he’s eligible to come off the DL, and Murphy at some point in May.
Meanwhile, there are games to play. Martinez’s squad took two of three from the New York Mets in Citi Field, but just dropped two of three to the Los Angeles Dodgers, leaving them 10-12 overall after 22 games, 5.0 games out in the division with three more to play in AT&T Park before they return to the nation’s capital.