The loss was the 9th straight for the Nationals, who went just 1 for 3 with runners in scoring position and two runners left on base in the third of four with their NL East rivals.
“It’s been tough,” manager Davey Martinez said of the current stretch, in which the club has dropped nine straight overall, nine straight to the Braves, 14 of 15 in July, and 15 of 16 overall since June 29th.
“We talk about this almost every single day: We’ve got to get some of these guys going.
“They’ve got to contribute offensively. It’s just been a tough go. Even though I thought Lane [Thomas] the last couple at-bats the ball came off his bat better, [Victor] Robles actually the ball came off his bat better, now it’s just a matter of consistency.
“We talk about these guys just having good, consistent at-bats, getting ready to hit, every pitch, so we got to keep working with them.”
Bell and Soto continue to swing the bat, but the other seven in the lineup were a combined 2 for 24 on the day on Saturday.
“Josh is doing well. Soto is hitting the ball well. I can see César [Hernández] hitting the ball a lot better,” Martinez said, “... but we got to start putting at-bats together, team at-bats, and start hitting for a while, and keeping some innings, get some length in our innings, and see if we can drive two or three runs in in an inning.”
The fifth-year skipper acknowledged that some of the struggling players may be pressing as they try to turn things around at the plate, but he said the biggest issues he sees are in at-bats with runners in scoring position.
“What I do notice,” he explained, “is when we’ve got guys in scoring position we do a lot more chasing than we should do and normally do. So, we got to relax with guys on base, and like I said, don’t try to do too much. Try to get the ball in the middle of the field and think about just hitting line drives in the middle of the field, so and get the ball in the strike zone. Something — every time they go up there I try to tell them, ‘Hey, just see the ball in the strike zone, and don’t chase. You chase, you get yourself out, so we got to do a better job of that.”
They’ll need to do a better job if they want to avoid a 10th straight loss overall, and a 10th straight loss to the Braves in the series finale in Nationals Park.