WASHINGTON -- The start to this season has drawn comparisons around D.C. to 2015, the last time the Nationals missed the postseason. Both teams began the season 11-14 through 25 games with an inexperienced manager as they had to navigate injuries to key players to put a damper on a
WASHINGTON -- The start to this season has drawn comparisons around D.C. to 2015, the last time the Nationals missed the postseason. Both teams began the season 11-14 through 25 games with an inexperienced manager as they had to navigate injuries to key players to put a damper on a hot start from Bryce Harper.
These Nationals are not entirely the same, and it is far too premature to make proclamations about this season. However, the parallels remain, especially after Friday's 5-4 loss to the D-backs. It's Washington's fifth loss in the past six games.
The Nationals also fell to 1-7 in one-run contests, but the optimistic bunch sees the close games as a sign that a turnaround is in sight.
"As long as we fight till the end. If we do that, then whatever," Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg said. "I gave it everything I had today, and it wasn't good enough. I'll live with that, and it's a new day tomorrow. If we can get 25 guys to do that, that's going to be huge."
Without three of their best hitters -- Anthony Rendon, Daniel Murphy and Adam Eaton -- the Nationals have struggled to capitalize on scoring chances. On Friday, they collected 11 hits, but ultimately left 10 runners on base.
It was not enough to overcome an uncharacteristic start from Strasburg, who gave up five runs in 6 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts. Strasburg was handed a lead in this game twice, and he could not make it hold either time.
"Ten guys left on base, 11 hits, you should win a ballgame," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said.
The Nationals will point out, and rightfully so, that it is early in the season, with plenty of time left for a turnaround. Martinez remains positive even as the Nats continue to struggle. Prior to the game, general manager Mike Rizzo said he was pleased with the way the club was playing despite the injuries they have already endured.
And then the game followed a familiar tune. After a scorching 4-0 start to the season, the Nats have gone 7-15 since.
"Just got to keep going, keep grinding, keep having good at-bats," Harper said. "If we can put those together then -- we are a good team. Just got to go out there, keep doing it and good things will happen."
Howie Kendrick finished a triple shy of the cycle, going 3-for-5 with a two-run homer in the third inning off D-backs right-hander Zack Godley.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Door left open: Scoring chances have become precious for the Nationals. In the fourth inning with the score tied, they loaded the bases for their Nos. 3-4 hitters, giving Harper and Ryan Zimmerman a chance to break the game open. But Godley got Harper to strike out on a foul tip and Zimmerman bounced out to short to end the threat.
"I think in that spot, bases loaded, he gave me one pitch to hit," Harper said. "First-pitch curveball, then everything else was off the plate."
Harper has walked 34 times in March/April this season, the second most all-time. Only Barry Bonds walked more times in the season's opening month. Bonds walked 39 times in 2004, the same year he set the record for most walks in a single season (232).
"My big thing with Harp is hey, take your walks," Martinez said. "If they're going to walk you, take your walks. ... Take your walks for the next guy, count on the next guy to try and drive you in. Harp's been good with that."
Since taking over the team's fifth starter role, right-hander Jeremy Hellickson has turned in a pair of encouraging outings while giving the Nationals a chance to win both games. He will make his third start with the team Saturday at 4:05 p.m. ET at Nationals Park. Left-hander Patrick Corbin will start for the D-backs.
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.