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Nats avoid being no-hit to close tough road trip

@JamalCollier
May 12, 2019

LOS ANGELES -- No baseball team from Washington has been no-hit since 1966, when the Senators went hitless against Indians starter Sonny Siebert on June 10. The Nationals came dangerously close to having that streak end on Sunday afternoon, as Dodgers lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu kept Washington out of the hit

LOS ANGELES -- No baseball team from Washington has been no-hit since 1966, when the Senators went hitless against Indians starter Sonny Siebert on June 10.

The Nationals came dangerously close to having that streak end on Sunday afternoon, as Dodgers lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu kept Washington out of the hit column until Gerardo Parra’s ground-rule double with one out in the eighth inning. It was a brief moment of reprieve for the Nats, but Ryu quickly got back on track, blanking the Nationals for eight innings before Kenley Jansen closed out a 6-0 loss.

Box score

Ryu struck out nine and issued just one walk, outdueling Stephen Strasburg, who gave up a pair of runs on four hits in six innings with seven strikeouts in what was a tight game before Corey Seager’s grand slam in the eighth inning off Kyle Barraclough put it out of reach.

The loss concluded a challenging 10-day, 10-game road trip for the Nationals, who finished 3-7 against three of the top four teams in the National League -- Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Los Angeles.

“Ten-day road trips without off-days are pretty tough to begin with,” second baseman Brian Dozier said. “Started out the road trip not very well. Moved to Milwaukee, not good at all. And then we actually played the Dodgers pretty well, which is a good sign going into the off-day. A much needed off-day for a lot of people, this stretch has been pretty rough.”

Indeed, a road trip this grueling could have threatened to derail any team’s season, especially one that had been mired by injuries as badly as the Nats. After losing four in a row to start the week, the Nats managed to split this four-game series at Dodger Stadium, a small consolation prize as they head back to Washington with a record of 16-24.

Only the Marlins have a lower winning percentage in the NL, but the Nationals believe they saw reasons to be optimistic this weekend.

“We were in every game,” manager Dave Martinez said. “I told the boys, ‘We got to keep battling, keep battling.’ Adversity is sometimes good for a club. Right now, the boys don’t quit. They’re playing hard. I see signs of these guys starting to play together.”

The first sign of optimism lies in the division, and the Nationals have to feel fortunate that no one has run away with the NL East despite their slow start. After injuries depleted their lineup last week, they are starting to get healthy once again.

Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto returned from the injured list this week. Trea Turner is getting closer to starting a Minor League rehab assignment, perhaps as soon as this week. Parra joined the team Thursday and has collected a few big hits. Combine that with the strength of their starting pitching and much better defense this weekend and there are reasons for a positive outlook going forward.

But the 2019 season is roughly a quarter complete, and the Nationals still have several issues to iron out.

Their lineup is getting deeper, but they were shut out three times in the past week and averaged just 2.6 runs per game during that span. The back of their rotation has been inconsistent, with Anibal Sanchez and Jeremy Hellickson struggling. Their bullpen has shown modest improvements, but the Nationals are still short on reliable options aside from Sean Doolittle in high-leverage situations.

So while the Nationals have started to show slight signs of progress, they also realize they will need to play better in order to turn around their season. They still believe this team has the talent to do so.

“I mean, I don’t see why not,” Strasburg said. “We have all the pieces here. I think it’s about weathering the storm and just holding it down.”

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.