Nats' lineup in a skid: 'Hitting's really weird'

July 25th, 2021

The week began with a season-high flurry of offense. Six homers and 18 runs on Monday against the Marlins was an encouraging sign for the Nationals as they look to make a push in the second half of the season.

But since scoring another six runs on Tuesday, the Nats’ offense has been stifled. With a 5-3 defeat to the Orioles on Saturday night at Camden Yards, they have scored a total of five runs in their last three games and have lost all three contests.

“Our offense needs to get it going again,” manager Dave Martinez said. “We were swinging the bats so well, and now -- all of a sudden -- we’re not.”

After scoring a combined 24 runs on Monday and Tuesday, the offensive production has dropped:

• Wednesday vs. Marlins: 1 run off 6 hits, 0-for-7 with RISP, 7 LOB
• Friday vs. Orioles: 1 run off 5 hits, 0-for-8 with RISP, 7 LOB
• Saturday vs. Orioles: 3 runs off 5 hits, 1-for-6 with RISP, 4 LOB

“Once again, our offense today was not there,” Martinez said. “I thought we were going to break out late in the game, but it just wasn’t there early.”

As has been the case in the recent losses, the Nationals did not capitalize on enough opportunities on Saturday.

Juan Soto provided the Nationals’ first spark of offense in the seventh inning with a solo home run, his 17th of the season and sixth since the All-Star break.

Washington opened the eighth by loading the bases (Josh Harrison double, Carter Kieboom and Tres Barrera hit-by-pitch) with no outs. Victor Robles and Alcides Escobar, though, struck out in consecutive at-bats. Trea Turner drove in a pair of runs with a line drive to center, only for the rally to end with Soto popping out in foul territory.

“I think it’s maybe just trying too hard,” said Turner. “I think everybody’s trying to compete, trying to earn their spot or win games or whatever it may be, whatever their mindset is. It might be just trying to do a little too much on each individual basis.

“I’ve been there, I’ve taken part in that as well. When you want to do well, you want to come through for your team and try to help the team win. I think you can do things like that. It’s a matter of relaxing and letting the game kind of come to you, and getting good pitches to hit.”

Martinez emphasized staying patient, not chasing outside of the zone, driving the ball to the gaps and the other way, and maintaining a consistent approach at the plate. Honing in on the small things, Martinez noted, can add up to the production of multiple home runs. 

“Hitting’s really weird,” he said. “As we all know, hitting comes and goes, it really does. But you can’t force it, you’ve got to just let it happen.”

The Nationals will look to avoid the sweep on Sunday afternoon in Baltimore before traveling to Philadelphia for a four-game series against the National League East rival Phillies ahead of the July 30 Trade Deadline.

“We’ve got to get back to what we were doing four days ago,” Martinez said, “And that’s hitting the ball hard, putting the ball in play and taking our chances that way.”