Nationals again done in by inability to drive runners home

Nationals again done in by inability to drive runners home
May 29, 2014, 1:00 am
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After the Nationals' sixth loss in their last seven games - this an 8-5 defeat against the Marlins in 10 innings - one all too familiar stat jumped out of the boxscore.

The Nats' inability to bring home runners in scoring position has been a problem all season, and it once again proved costly on Wednesday night.

Eleven times Nationals players stepped into the batter's box with men in scoring position and only twice did they record a hit. Seven times a Nats player batted with the bases loaded and only once did they hit safely. Ten innings and 15 hits later, and 15 total were left on base by the Nats.

The opportunities squandered led to second chances for the Marlins and an eventual four-run outburst for the visitors in the 10th inning.

"It’s frustrating," manager Matt Williams said. "Everybody’s frustrated by it, but there’s nothing we can do about it now except prepare for Friday. Certainly to have a chance like we had with the bases loaded, nobody out, you want to score that run. Didn’t happen tonight… just couldn’t get it done."

Williams' reference to no outs was a nod to the eighth inning. After Nate McLouth and Scott Hairston walked, Denard Span bunted safely to load the bases. Anthony Rendon - who has been in a month-long slump - stood in to face left-hander Mike Dunn.

Rendon saw 10 pitches and fouled off six - including five in a row at two strikes - before whiffing on a 90 mile per hour slider. Jayson Werth then popped out and Adam LaRoche grounded out to end the inning. The game remained tied at 4-4 as the inning was over.

Rendon said he was aiming for a sacrifice fly in the at-bat.

"It's definitely frustrating," he said. "We had our opportunities and that's what we take BP for. We have those situations and that's what we practice for. To not come through is obviously disappointing and that's why we lost. We didn't come through in those situations and they did."

McLouth pointed out the fact the Nationals' two, three and four hitters were due up.

"With Rendon, Werth and LaRoche up, those are the three guys I'd want up there every time," he said. "And they put some really good at-bats up. They just weren't able to come through. Those are the three guys I'd want up there every single time in that situation."

The Nats would see more runners reach base in the bottom of the ninth. Three players hit singles, but no runs came across. The first single turned into an out at second base as Wilson Ramos tried to stretch his hit into a double. Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton fielded the ball, did a spin and gunned him out with a perfect throw to second base.

Williams gave credit to Stanton instead of faulting Ramos.

"It’s an in-between bounce for him, and he turned around and made a perfect throw. You can’t take that aggressiveness away from them and say that’s not a good play. He’s going away from the base and he turned around and made a good throw."

The Nationals are hitting .210 as a team with runners in scoring position this season, good for third-to-last in the majors. They are giving themselves chances to win, yet falling just short night after night.

After Wednesday's loss the Nationals are now 9-15 in the month of May. That breaks out to a .375 winning percentage, or a 61-win pace over a full season.

The Nationals have two more games left this month, Friday and Saturday. If they don't win both, it will be the worst month the team has posted since August of 2010 (.379).

With their season hitting its lowest point so far, the Nationals preached positivity late Wednesday night. They have an off day Thursday and the banged up Texas Rangers coming to town Friday to play without a designated hitter. For now, it's on to the next one.

"That's how baseball is," Rendon said. "Thats how the last couple days, the last couple of weeks have been going for us. The baseball will turn around, though. The ball rolls both ways."

"It’s never easy to lose, and this stretch has been a tough one, but the attitude is there and it’s good," Williams said. "Unfortunately, we’re in the results business, so if the result is not what we want it to be, it’s not a good thing."