What a difference a week — and one west coast trip — can make.
After a thrilling series victory over the Chicago Cubs in D.C. 10 days ago, the Nationals were riding high as they headed to the left coast for a crucial 10-game road swing. And with back-to-back wins in San Diego to kick things off, it looked like they were poised to pad their lead in the NL East.
But after Friday night’s 5-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, Washington suddenly finds itself in a season-worst six-game losing skid. During the funk, it seems there's been a constant theme: the offense hasn't produced in big spots, the pitching has been ordinary and the defense has faltered at the most inopportune times.
So with that, let's look back at at the Nats' latest setback:
Scherzer bit by the home run...again: The $210 million ace served up a bit of a mixed bag on Friday night. While Max Scherzer may have notched double-digit strikeouts for third consecutive outing and the sixth time this season, his home run issue still reared its ugly head once again. He allowed the game-tying long ball to Keon Broxton in the fifth inning, and in the following frame gave up the go-ahead two-run shot to Kirk Nieuwenhuis that would put the Brew Crew up for good. In all, he allowed five earned runs on five hits over six laborious innings, throwing 117 pitches.
Including Friday night's start, Scherzer has allowed 20 home runs in 2016— the most of any pitcher in the big leagues. He’s never yielded more than 29 in a single season, but if he continues at this pace, it looks like that could change pretty soon. Augment his long ball woes that with an uncharacteristically high walk total (he's six away from matching his 2015 mark), and it'd be hard not to acknowledge that it's been a bizarre year thus far for one of the top right-handed starters in the game.
Offense can't come through late: The Nats' offense continues to scuffle at the worst times, and Friday performance was especially disappointing. Sure, Washington plated three runs in the third inning to go up 3-2, but it couldn't get the big hit it needed late in the game. With the bases loaded and down 5-3 in the top of the eighth inning, the Nats failed to capitalize after a strikeout by Danny Espinosa and a pop out by Clint Robinson ended the most promising rally of the night. The Nats stranded a total of 11 base runners and struck out 16 times.
Ramos posts another big game: Is it possible that the Nats might have a new batting average leader by the time they return home? With the way Wilson Ramos is swinging it lately, that’s definitely within the realm of possibility. The catcher continued his bid for his first career All-Star nod on Friday night with a four-hit effort to raise his average to .341, just eight points behind Daniel Murphy's NL-leading mark of .349. With free agency looming after the season, the 28-year-old sure picked a good time to be on pace to set career-highs in home runs, RBI and walks. Perhaps LASIK has its new pitchman, yeah?