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Steve Lombardozzi is tagged out on a seventh-inning double play yesterday.
What's the best way to score runs? Put a lot of men on base. Not surprisingly, the Nationals also rank with the dregs of the league in this department, their .292 on-base percentage better than only the Mets and Marlins.
Here's the problem: Aside from the pending return of Bryce Harper — and, to a lesser extent, Wilson Ramos — there isn't much the Nationals can do to put more guys on base. They can hope underachieving regulars like Ryan Zimmerman, Denard Span and Jayson Werth start performing better and start reaching base at clips more in line with their career norms. But you don't just turn from one of the league's worst offensive clubs to one of its best overnight.
Let's face it, the 2013 Nationals aren't going to be remembered for their offensive prowess.
Which doesn't mean this team can't start doing some things to help itself score more runs and be more efficient with what few men it does put on base. What things? How about the little things?
These Nationals don't just struggle to score runs, they struggle with all their might to manufacture runs. And Sunday's series finale in Cleveland was probably the most extreme example of that this season.
On three separate occasions during their 2-0 loss to the Indians, the Nationals had a man on third with nobody out. They failed to bring any one of them home. Worse yet was the result of the seven plate appearances that came in those situations: four strikeouts, two double plays and a weak grounder to short.
It would be one thing if this was a rare occurrence, but anyone who has watched the Nats all season knows this wasn't rare. It's the norm.
The Nationals scored a total of eight runs over the weekend at Progressive Field. Do you know how those runs crossed the plate? Five came on solo home runs (all Saturday night). Two came on wild pitches. One came on a double-play grounder.
Yep, that's right, the Nats didn't produce one RBI single, double or triple during the series. And let's not forget about Thursday's finale in Colorado, in which they scored a crucial late run on back-to-back balks.
Is there a worse situational-hitting club in the majors? Well, there are a couple, but not many.
Did you know the Nationals, when putting a man on third base with less than two outs this year, have brought that runner home only 46.4 percent of the time? That ranks 27th out of 30 MLB clubs.
Here's another one: The Nats have only 13 sacrifice flies in 68 games this season. That ranks 26th in the majors. They have produced exactly zero sac flies during the first six games of this road trip.
Is it any wonder this lineup has been held to zero or one run an astounding 19 times this year? Or that this team has lost 10 games already when giving up two or fewer runs?
The Nationals conclude their road trip the next three nights in Philadelphia. Will they suddenly find a way to score more runs in bunches? Will they suddenly start performing better in situations that demand plate discipline, not swinging for the fences?
It's going to take more than the eventual return of key players off the DL. It's going to take a full-scale change in philosophy from the guys who have been stepping to the plate in key situations all season but haven't appeared to have a firm grasp of just what those situations demanded.