MIAMI -- Entering this four-game series against the Marlins, speculation swirled that the Nationals would need an emphatic statement to sway their top decision makers and avoid becoming sellers before the non-waiver Trade Deadline. Putting the fate of a season on a single game or series is often futile, but
MIAMI -- Entering this four-game series against the Marlins, speculation swirled that the Nationals would need an emphatic statement to sway their top decision makers and avoid becoming sellers before the non-waiver Trade Deadline. Putting the fate of a season on a single game or series is often futile, but the Nationals needed to show signs this weekend that they were a team on the verge of a rebound and that this club was worth adding to -- or at least not subtracting from -- before Tuesday arrives.
Instead, the Nationals managed only a four-game split, capped off by a particularly uninspiring effort in Sunday afternoon's 5-0 defeat at Marlins Park. The Nats had one hit entering the ninth inning and finished with two on the day, matching a season low and causing their manager to remark that his club looked "flat" on offense.
Flat during a game Washington so desperately needed as it tries to overcome a six-game deficit behind the National League East-leading Phillies. After winning the first two games this weekend, the Nationals dropped back-to-back contests to fall back under .500 at 52-53.
"We shouldn't have one hit going into the ninth inning against that team," right fielder Adam Eaton said. "That's no offense to them, I just think with the quality of hitters that we have in this lineup and the way we go about our business...
"We need a sense of urgency. It's gotta be now. Every single series from here on out should be a playoff series where we've got to win it. We've got to win every series. It's gotta happen now. It can't happen next week. It can't happen the week after. It's got to happen now."
Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson never made it out of the fifth inning as he was pulled with two outs. He gave up five runs, although just three were earned after an error by Daniel Murphy led to two more. The Nats' offense had opportunities to score against Marlins right-hander Jose Urena, as he issued four walks and hit another batter, but they could not capitalize on any of them as he tossed six innings with five strikeouts.
"Yesterday's game was frustrating, today's game was just flat," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "We came out, we had a few runners on base the first couple innings and couldn't do anything. Our offense didn't do anything today. Our offense was not there today."
Now the Nationals head into an off-day with uncertainty surrounding the future of their roster with Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET Deadline approaching. Despite the grand expectations they carried at the start of 2018, these Nationals have been middling and inconsistent for 105 games this season and the better part of the last two months.
They have hoped and waited for a rebound or a turnaround, but perhaps that late surge may never come. Their top evaluators will not make their decisions based solely on this weekend; however, the Nats did not respond with a reassuring performance.
"We've put ourselves in this position. They have to do what they've got to do," Eaton said. "But the guys that are in this clubhouse every day, and whether they're here or not, we're going to all be pulling in the same direction and doing what we have to do in order to win ballgames.
"They have a job to do, and we have a job to do. I hate to put it in their hands. If we do our job and come out and play, we put it in our own hands. If we come out with a sense of urgency, we can do that."
HE SAID IT
"For the most part, we're just now getting our guys back. You're seeing our lineup in full now, guys are starting to play baseball. ... They're playing better. They are. And now our lineup, we got length in our lineup. We get [Stephen] Strasburg back, he's a big part of it. We get [Sean] Doolittle back, he's a big part of it. We're going to keep pushing. We're going to keep going. Not by any means are we giving up.
"I know we're not down here. I know they're not up there. I know [general manager Mike] Rizzo is not that guy. I know the front office ain't those people, so we got to keep pushing. But we got to do it here. Regardless of what happens after this Deadline, we got to play baseball consistently every day." -- Martinez, on why he's confident the Nats can turn it around
Following an off-day, the Nationals open a 10-game homestand with a two-game set against the Mets at 7:05 p.m. ET on Tuesday. When Tanner Roark takes the mound for that game, it is unclear how different -- if at all -- the Nationals' roster will appear after the non-waiver Trade Deadline at 4 p.m. ET. Steven Matz goes for the Mets.
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.