Nationals Offense Continues to Struggle

By Carla Peay
Updated: August 8, 2005

WASHINGTON, D.C.—After a tough six-game road trip in which the Washington Nationals went 1-5 against division rivals Atlanta and Florida, the hope was that returning home to the friendly confines of RFK would bring back some of the magic of the first half of the season. Unfortunately, that would prove not to be the case. Looking for a chance to rack up a few wins against two mediocre teams, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres, both of whom had losing records coming into RFK, the Nationals posted a disappointing 2-4 homestand, winning 2 of 3 from the Dodgers, but getting swept by the Padres.

Things are not likely to get any easier. A two-week road trip starts on Tuesday that will take the Nationals to Houston, Colorado, Philadelphia, and New York. The Nationals went 1-3 the last time they faced Houston, who now leads in the Wild Card race, while division rivals Philadelphia and New York each trail the Nationals and Marlins, who ended Sunday tied for second place behind the Astros. In this second half of the season, the Nationals have lost their last 13 games decided by one run, a bizarre reversal of fortune from the first half, in which they won 12 straight one-run decisions. In Frank Robinson’s words, the Nationals bats are missing.

“If we can get the offense going and we can score some runs and win some games, then there’s still time left on the schedule. Mistakes are magnified because we’re not doing the things that we’re capable of doing right now. We have missed opportunities early in the game, and maybe we score a run here and a run there, but it seems like we get to the fifth inning and all of a sudden, its lights out”, said manager Frank Robinson.

As the offensive woes continue, Robinson is open to trying nearly anything to jump start the team’s performance. In the final game of the series against the Padres, which the Nationals lost 3-0, the team on the field bore no resemblance to the one the FRK faithful are accustomed to seeing. Out of the lineup were starters Brad Wilkerson (who later came in to pinch hit and remained in the game), Jose Vidro, Jose Guillen, Vinny Castilla, Brian Schneider and Preston Wilson. Both Guillen and Schneider are suffering from shoulder injuries, and although Schneider is expected to return soon, it is not known when Guillen will be ready to play again. The makeshift lineup was no match for Padres starter Jake Peavy, who pitched a shutout on Sunday, the final game of the homestand. National’s starter Esteban Loaiza took the loss. Loaiza has been near the top of the league all season long in lack of run support.

“For us pitchers, we’ve just got to go out and do the best we possibly can to win the game, and keep our team in the game. Hopefully our teammates can put some runs up. It hasn’t happened in the past, but we play hard every day. We’re not giving up and we’re not giving in and hopefully things will change”, said Loaiza.

“If I get frustrated thinking about it, it’s going to block me out of my control and my performance. I just want to go out there and put zeros up on the board and do the best job possible that I can, like I’ve been doing all season long. Hopefully things will change on this road trip”, added Loaiza.

“You’re always trying to figure out something to say to get them clicking again, but there’s not much else at this late date in the season that you haven’t already said. To keep repeating yourself, it just falls on deaf ears. But I’m not giving up, I don’t expect for them to give up, so I’ll try to figure out something to say and hopefully we’ll get going”, said Robinson.

With a record of 58-53, and 51 games remaining, the Nationals are by no means out of the playoff chase, and neither is any other team in National League East. While the Braves currently hold a 5 ½ game lead over the Nationals and Marlins, less than 7 games separate first place from last. In the toughest, tightest division in baseball, it’s still anybody’s race.