For the second time in a month, the Nationals were dominated in consecutive days by the Los Angeles Dodgers' duo of aces, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw. But this time the Nationals fielded a mostly healthy lineup, as their offense continues to lose its footing in the month of August.
Greinke and Kershaw could be the two best pitchers in today's game, but the Nationals were not able to score a single run off either of them. They looked like an offensive powerhouse in Monday night's 8-3 win in the series opener, only to wilt once the big boys took the mound.
In Wednesday night's 3-0 loss, only Anthony Rendon and Michael Taylor got hits off Kershaw. Taylor somehow registered two, including a double. The rest of the lineup went 0-for-21 against the three-time Cy Young-winner. He tossed eight scoreless innings with eight strikeouts and zero walks.
Kershaw also shut the Nats down for eight innings with three hits allowed and now walks on July 18. Except that day he struck out 14. The Nats vs. Kershaw this season are scoreless through 16 innings with 22 strikeouts and no walks drawn.
Kershaw is, of course, the best pitcher of his generation. He dominates everybody at some point. But this was a Nats lineup on Wednesday that for the most part does not have the excuse of injury. They had a banged up Bryce Harper and were missing Denard Span, but the rest of their lineup was as Mike Rizzo intended it to be before this season. Seven of their eight best offensive players were on the field, yet Kershaw took a perfect game into the sixth inning.
It has become a troubling trend that the Nats' offense hasn't followed with the expected production since it got mostly healthy. Ryan Zimmerman has done his part, and Harper has continued to get on base, but the lineup collectively has not found it's groove. It is a big reason the Nats are now 3 1/2 games back from the Mets for the first time since May 10.
Anthony Rendon returned from the disabled list on July 25 and both Zimmerman and Jayson Werth came back July 28. That was over two weeks ago, yet the Nats are 18th in runs scored in the month of August. Rendon has shown flashes at times, but holds a .238 average and .662 OPS in the 17 games since he was activated. Werth has been the weakest link in the Nats' lineup with a .151 average and .440 OPS in the 15 games since leaving the DL. Those were two of the Nats' most dependable and productive players when they won 96 games in 2014.
The continued problems the Nats are finding at the plate, coupled with the uncertainty of Denard Span's injury, makes you wonder if the Nats should do something creative through the waiver wire. We've seen them acquire significant pieces in August before and the need for an offensive boost is being highlighted on a nightly basis. The Nationals face the San Francisco Giants on Thursday night, the defending world champions. The Giants seem intent on bringing in a veteran bat, perhaps Chase Utley whom they have been tied to in trade rumors. Maybe the Nats should take note and do something similar for their own sake.
Drew Storen stumbles again
For how good Drew Storen looked in the first four outings he pitched after the trade for Jonathan Papelbon, he has been an unmitigated disaster in his last three games. Storen's struggles continued on Wednesday night as he allowed two earned runs in 2/3 of an inning against the Dodgers.
Storen now sports the unfortunate line of eight earned runs in 6 2/3 innings since he became the setup man. Contrast that with the seven earned runs he gave up in 37 1/3 innings as closer this year and, well, you have a pretty interesting statistic.
Storen, in fact, has given up more earned runs in his last three outings than he did all of last season in 65 appearances. He has also allowed as many earned runs in his last three games than he did in his previous 67 combined.
Here, take a look:
Storen's last three games: 2.2 IP, 8 ER, 6 H, BB, 3 SO
Storen's previous 67 games: 62.1 IP, 8 ER, 44 H, 13 BB, 67 SO
Whether this has anything to do with Papelbon's acquisition is difficult to tell, Storen certainly wouldn't admit it. But if it doesn't, that sure is a major coincidence.