Nats 'need a little luck' after sweep by Crew

May 30th, 2021

WASHINGTON -- A four-game losing streak, a seventh time being shut out and a third series in which they’ve been swept -- something has to change for the Nationals. Manager Dave Martinez is trying to stay positive, continuously saying his team will “turn it around” or just needs “timely hits.”

“It's a trickle effect for everybody, not just the hitters but the pitchers as well,” said Martinez. “When you're not scoring runs consistently, all of a sudden, the pitchers are trying to make that perfect pitch and they're trying to try to throw up zeros. You start seeing guys just press a little bit, and that's something that I don't want them to do. I tell them every day, ‘Hey, don't make it happen. It's gonna happen.’”

Martinez is partially right; it’s the offense that needs to click. The Nats couldn’t have asked for much more from , who recorded his 101st 10-plus strikeout game in a 3-0 loss to the Brewers on Sunday afternoon at Nationals Park.

Scherzer retired 16 of the 17 batters he faced after allowing a two-run homer to Avisaíl García in the first inning. Without any run support, Scherzer fell to 4-4 on the season. He tossed just 89 pitches over his six innings, then was lifted for a pinch-hitter to hopefully jump-start the offense.

Washington didn’t record a hit until the fifth inning, when Kyle Schwarber’s single slid through the hole toward right-center field.

The bottom of the sixth inning would have been perfect for some timely hitting from , who has gone 0-for-9 over the last three games. The young slugger was visibly upset with a called strike two that hitting coach Kevin Long argued until being ejected. Soto then took strike three with a man on base.

Both Martinez and Soto reiterated after Saturday’s doubleheader that everything is good, that Soto’s left shoulder is fine -- he had a stint on the IL from April 20-May 4 -- and that this is just a case of being unable to get in front of a fastball. Soto slashing .247/.373/.341 in May is not the only reason for the lack of offense.

Entering Sunday, the Nationals had hit .238 with runners in scoring position, which ranked 23rd in the Majors.

“I'll tell you right now, we need a little luck on our side,” said Martinez. “We've hit some balls hard, we really have. These guys are up there and they give us every effort in the world. We need a little luck and one of these balls to fall with guys on base and things will change.”

Luck aside, Josh Bell -- who struck out three times and left four runners on base Sunday -- knows it takes just one hit to turn things around. But waiting for that hit can sometimes feel defeating.

“It just boils down to trusting your teammates, relying on the team around you,” said Bell. “We have a spectacular team out there. We have a lot of talent. When we look around the clubhouse, that's the team that we see. Guys are coming back in the dugout after lining out or something like that and they're like, ‘Man, this is tough luck right now.’ It hasn't gone our way thus far. … We're kind of scrambling right now. But I think it just starts with one hit. Then everyone can almost exhale and keep playing.”

As the Nationals look ahead to a nine-game road trip against the Braves, Phillies and Rays, Martinez will continue to preach the same message -- have fun, keep swinging and trust that this is going to turn around. 

Scherzer looked around the clubhouse after Sunday’s loss and didn’t see frustration. Rather, he saw guys that had already shaken off these losses.

“We know what we're up against,” said Scherzer of the upcoming series in Atlanta. “We've got to go down to Atlanta and play well. That's all we can do. If we control what we can control, hopefully, the results are different.”