In an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies earlier this month, Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo talked about the lineup the Nats were fielding during their road trip to Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Los Angeles the last time they faced the Dodgers in mid-May.
“I remember going into the clubhouse when we were on the road trip where we were in Philly for three, Milwaukee for three, and Los Angeles for four, and the lineup card on the wall, I go to [Manager] Davey [Martinez], ‘How are you going to pul this one off?’ you know what I mean, with the lineup that we were featuring there. It was several Triple-A players, we had bench players that we were playing every day, we had pitchers that we have high regard [for] but we thought that needed more seasoning in the minor leagues, and we’ve got these guys in prominent roles against some big-time teams, and we’re just treading water to keep our nose afloat and from not drowning totally.”
They came close to drowning totally, going 3-7 on that 10-game trip, which left them 16-24 on the season, and they dropped seven of the next 10 games as well, leaving them at 19-31 on May 23rd after a four-game sweep at the hands of the New York Mets in Citi Field.
Since then, the Nationals have gone 36-16 in the last 52 games, taking them from 12 games under .500 to eight games over .500 at 55-47 overall on the season, atop the race in the NL Wild Card race, and 4.5 games out in the NL East after Thursday’s loss in the series finale with the Colorado Rockies.
Looking back on the rough start to the season in an MLB Network Radio interview last week, Rizzo said there were a number of factors: injuries, mistakes, the tough schedule early, and more, that played a role in how things went down.
“We were finding ways to lose,” he said, “we had very little or no margin for error, we had to play perfect baseball, our defense was as bad as I’ve ever seen it at the major league level, our baserunning was not really good, and a lot of that had to do with the personnel on the field.
“We were running lineups out there that had very little margin for error and very little chance to score enough runs to win games, so it was a trying time for us, and Davey, to his credit, with [Bench Coach] Chip Hale, and [First Base Coach Tim Bogar], and those guys, they did a masterful job of keeping this team together, keeping it a cohesive group, and the one thing I will say about this group during those dark times, and there were dark times where everyone in the industry was questioning the character and the ability of this team, there was not one teammate who pointed a finger either internally or to the media anonymously, and I think that’s a credit to the coaching staff and to the character of the players in that clubhouse.”
They did manage to earn a split of the four-game set with the Dodgers in Chavine Ravine on that trip in May. How will they do against the Dodgers this time around?