“You’ve got Daniel Murphy going through Spring Training in the end of June,” Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies last Thursday.
“You’ve got Adam Eaton trying to get his sea legs underneath him and going through his Spring Training. You’ve got Matt Wieters down, you’ve got Ryan Zimmerman down, you’ve got Matt Adams down.
“Those are big offensive cogs that you don’t have or that aren’t playing up to their potential yet. So, we’re just trying to survive until we get some rhythm in the lineup, till we some synergy in the lineup, till we get guys like Eaton and Murphy to get enough at bats for them to perform, and you get Wieters and Adams and Zimmerman back I think the offense will look much, much different.”
“We have had our struggles with injuries,” Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez acknowledged on Sunday, before a 4-3 extra innings loss to the Philadelphia Phillies left Washington 42-40 this season, 6.0 games back in the NL East.
“For me it is about the 25 guys available for that day,” Martinez said.
“For me it is trusting all of them and being patient and seeing this thing through every day.
“Every day I make a lineup I believe we are going to win that day. We have the guys to do it.”
Martinez had Daniel Murphy back at second base, starting there for the first time since he returned from offseason knee surgery.
“He’s our second baseman; he’s back,” Martinez said. “It is time for him to go out there and play second base and see what he can do.”
Bryce Harper was fifth in the lineup for the first time this season on Sunday, with Martinez explaining that he wanted to get the 25-year-old outfielder some RBI opportunities.
“That spot comes up a lot with runners in scoring position. I want to create something for him,” Martinez said.
Harper was 2 for 13 in the series at that point, with a home run, five walks and five Ks in 14 PAs in Philly.
Anthony Rendon had a .316/.355/.582 line in June, with 11 doubles, five home runs, seven walks, and 21 Ks in 107 plate appearances on the month, leaving him at .293/.359/.531 on the season.
“[Rendon] is starting to heat up a little bit. He is starting the swing the bat really well,” Martinez said.
Adams, Wieters, and Zimmerman are expected to take part in a sim game on Monday in D.C. as they each work their way back from their respective injuries.
For now, however, as Martinez said, he has to win with the players that are available.
The lineup he fielded on Sunday scored three runs, but went 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position and a total of nine runners left on base in what ended up a one-run loss, failing to come through in a few opportunities to advance runners and take the finale and earn a split with the Phillies.
The loss was the Nationals’ seventh in the last ten, their 17th in the last 26, and their 40th in 82 games overall.
“We’ve just got to figure out our offense,” Martinez said after the game. “It’s tough winning games with two or three runs.”
Martinez was asked what the Nationals could do to generate offense, which they managed to Saturday in a home-run filled 17-run game. But it hasn’t been consistent this season, and they can’t count on hitting seven home runs in a game to get it done.
How do they score runs when they aren’t hitting home runs left and right?
“We’re really good when we stay up the middle of the field,” Martinez said. “I know that, and we need to focus on just that. Trea [Turner] had some good at bats today and he tried to hit the ball up the middle of the field, stayed on some sliders and hit the ball well, but we’ve got to start striking out less, putting the balls in play, driving in runners when they have the ability to drive in runs.
“But our offense is good. I know it’s good. And I truly believe that it will turn around. Murph squared up some balls today. Adam [Eaton] got us going early, got a base hit, and a couple RBIs. We’ve got to continue to build on the innings. Like we get two or three guys on and then all of a sudden we get quick outs, so we’ve got extend the innings once we get going.”
Gio Gonzalez imploded in the fifth inning after four strong on Sunday. Stephen Strasburg is throwing again as he works his way back while on the DL with right shoulder inflammation.
Jeremy Hellickson returned to the rotation this weekend. Max Scherzer continues to be Max Scherzer, but without run-support. Tanner Roark has been up and down.
Erick Fedde and Jefry Rodriguez have kept the Nationals in games while they fill in for the Nationals’ injured starters.
The Nationals passed the halfway point this weekend, however, and they came out of the four-game set with the Phillies just two games over .500 on the season. They’ll get some expected everyday players back in the next few weeks.
Their rotation will be back to what it was expected to be shortly. Will there be enough time left when all those things come together to make a run? They’ve dug themselves a hole, it isn’t going to be easy to get out of it.