Sunday, July 18, 2010 5:46pm
By Mark Zuckerman
MIAMI -- Rick Eckstein can break down every at-bat by every one of his Washington Nationals batters the last two days and point to those who did their job and were victims of bad luck, and those who didnt take the correct approach into a key at-bat.
In the end, Eckstein -- like everyone else -- knows the process is less important than the end result. All that really matters is this: The Nationals put a boatload of men on base over the weekend at Sun Life Stadium and could not bring a single one of them home.
The game is based on execution when youve got runners in scoring position, the second-year hitting coach said. Thats the bottom line. We just didnt execute the last few days. We had our opportunities, and we couldnt capitalize on those opportunities.
The offensive stats that produced consecutive losses to the Florida Marlins of 2-0 and 1-0 were grisly. Despite 19 hits, the Nationals scored zero runs. With runners in scoring position, they went 0-for-18. They didnt produce one extra-base hit.
Jim Riggleman prefers to take the glass-half-full view, pointing out how many baserunners the Nationals did amass the last two days against Marlins starters Josh Johnson and Alex Sanabia. And the manager said as much to his players during a brief postgame meeting Sunday.
The upside is: Were out there. Were on base. Were grinding out quality at-bats to get into situations to score runs, Riggleman said. Were going to turn it around. Were going to start driving them in. We drove them in before the break; for about a week, it was going our way and we got some big RBIs. Were just in a little funk right now where were getting on but cant get them in.
The culprits were many. Adam Dunn came to bat five times over the weekend with a man in scoring position; he struck out five times. Josh Willingham, whose three-run double Friday night represented the Nationals lone run-scoring hit in the entire series, stranded eight runners on base the next two days.
And then there was Adam Kennedy, whose already frustrating season turned worse with a pair of baserunning blunders against the Marlins. Saturday night, he tried to score from second on a booted groundball up the middle, didnt see third-base coach Pat Listach put up the stop sign and was thrown out at the plate. Then in the ninth inning of Sundays loss, he slipped going around second on Michael Morses single to right and was thrown out to kill another potential rally.
My initial reaction was to try to get to third with less than two outs, he said. But I just made it into a pretty bad play.
Kennedy, like every other player in the Nationals' clubhouse, takes these losses hard. Perhaps no one, though, agonizes over them more than Eckstein, whose reputation as a hitting coach takes a hit every time his club cant produce at the plate.
Asked after Sundays game how much he takes these kind of offensive performances personally, he replied: Every pitch. Every pitch. Yeah.
Eckstein, one of the few holdovers from former manager Manny Actas coaching staff, received a vote of confidence from Riggleman following Sundays loss.
Rick does a great job, Riggleman said. Hes giving them all the information. Were just not getting it done here.
Mark Zuckerman covered the Nationals for The Washington Times from 2005-09. In addition to regular work this season for CSNwashington.com, he also covers the team at www.natsinsider.com. Email Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org.