Here’s the thing when everything appears to be going wrong: everything is going wrong.
The pitches are just a tick off, the opposition fastballs appear to have extra zip, the luck grandly sour. There are no runs and few answers. This is where the Nationals are.
They have lost five in a row. They have not scored in two days following Wednesday’s shutout in Philadelphia, this one a 3-0 loss with Max Scherzer pitching. They are nine games out of first place in the National League East -- that chase is over. They are six games out of a wild-card spot -- that chase is distant. The pressure has arrived.
“We definitely feel that,” Davey Martinez said. “We’re in the stretch run now. It’s here. It’s upon us.
“We need to start [Thursday]. The window of opportunity is closing. But, I’m not going to put this kind of pressure on these guys. Come out, win [Thursday], and go from there.”
Martinez doesn’t need to pressure them because they appear to be doing it themselves. The at-bats with runners in scoring position produce desperation. Leaving a game after six innings and in a 3-0 hole leads to frustration, the key term in Scherzer’s postgame interview.
The NBC Sports Philadelphia feed showed Scherzer slamming his glove in the dugout after pitching coach Paul Menhart patted him on the back following the sixth inning. Scherzer was exiting the game because his pitch count was up. His final inning he allowed a solo home run to Jay Bruce in a 1-1 count. He also walked three on the evening, two of which scored. Add the personal responsibility he feels every start, and the glove takes an unsurprising beating.
“Frustrated,” Scherzer said. “Look, tensions are high. You want to go out there and win. As a starting pitcher, you want to pitch deep into the game and be winning the game. We’re on a losing streak and you want to be the stopper. I wasn’t. And, that’s frustrating.”
He referenced frustration multiple times during a six-minute interview. He also stated the team, now a dismal 12-22, can turn things around.
“I believe that if we were to flip things around and get going, we can get ourselves right back into this,” Scherzer said. “At the end of the day, we’re only a handful, just a few games out of contention, for as bad as we’ve all played.
“Anything can happen in a month. You can flip things around in a month. That’s why when you feel these losing streaks, you want to end them.”
Simulations from Fivethirtyeight.com and the eye test produce a much more dubious assessment. The web site gives the Nationals a nine-percent chance at the postseason. Watching their play and accumulating their problems suggests a turnaround is unlikely. They are starting to feel that tension. The season is close to succumbing to it.