Apr 27

A veteran club like the Nats shouldn’t be playing like this

There are many ways to break out of a losing streak. A good way to extend one, however, is to make silly plays, something the Nationals have gotten good at during their current five-game skid.

Let’s review the fun, shall we?

On Wednesday, after the Nats rally to tie the Cardinals at 5-5 with a five-run third, Bryce Harper, representing the go-ahead run, gets himself picked off first with Ryan Zimmerman at the plate looking for his third hit of the night. The Cards take the lead in their next at-bat, while the Nats never threaten again and lose 7-5.

On Thursday, the Nats trail the Cardinals 2-1, with two outs and one on in the eighth inning, when Aaron Barrett sails a throw into center field following Mark Reynolds’ RBI double. Reynolds gets a Little League home run, and the Nats lose 4-1.

On Sunday, the Nats are potentially out of the fourth inning with a 1-0 lead when Giancarlo Stanton rounds third on Ichiro’s two-out infield hit and gets caught in a rundown situation. Catcher Wilson Ramos runs Stanton back to the bag at third but tries to make the tag himself rather than throw to Yunel Escobar. Stanton escapes the pickle, leaving the bases loaded, and Adeiny Hechavarria follows with a three-run triple. The Nats lose 6-2.

Three situations where the Nats could take the lead or stanch an opposing rally, and instead they kill their own momentum, allow an extra run or extend an inning. It’s not fair to say those plays alone were responsible for those losses, but they made winning a lot less likely.

Now the Nats are mired in their longest losing streak since 2013 when they defied high expectations to finish in second place and out of the postseason. At 7-12, they are tied with Philadelphia for the second-worst record in the National League. Their 18 errors are tied for the NL’s most and are just one short of Oakland’s major league high.

The team has had plenty of other problems, such as poor relief pitching and lack of clutch hitting. But good teams, let alone championship caliber ones, don’t make the kind of mistakes that have all but clinched three of those games for the other team.

Such mistakes are common of young teams, not veteran clubs like the Nationals. In order to break out of this funk, they need draw on their experience and wisdom to play sound, fundamental baseball before we start drawing more comparisons to that ill-fated 2013 season.