Should Nats Fans Start to Panic?

It’s the third full week of regular season baseball and the Washington Nationals are No. 4 in the National League East with a 7–7 record, only in front of the Miami Marlins at 4–12.

To this point, the Nats have played the New York Mets (9–6) and the first place Philadelphia Phillies (9–5), two series against each, with home and home splits. The Atlanta Braves are also 9–6, and won’t play the Nats until the end of May.

The Nats just wrapped up a weekend series against the Pittsburgh Pirates (8–6) where they lost two of three games.

This young season has been full of small disasters.

Only four games in, shortstop Trea Turner got hit in the hand by a pitch on a bunt attempt, and left the game immediately. He broke his right index finger, and is on the IL, with no announced return time. Up to that point, Turner had two home runs and four stolen bases. The Nats will miss him at the top of their lineup and in the infield, with Wilmer Difo taking over most of the shortstop duties. Difo has seven hits in 38 at-bats so far, and he has looked comfortable on defense. This is not the first time the Nats have lost Turner to an injury. In July 2017, Turner also got hit by a pitch and fractured his right wrist and he missed almost a month of the season.

The rest of the team has stayed healthy so far, but the bullpen is an absolute disaster. Sean Doolittle has been the only reliable arm. Trevor Rosenthal has given up seven earned runs, and was part of the crew that almost blew a 12–1 lead against the Mets on April 7. Rosenthal currently has the honor of holding an ERA of 72.00.  Martinez nearly emptied the bullpen during that game, after Scherzer pitched six innings. At this rate, no one’s shoulder is still going to be attached at the All-Star break.

And if things didn’t seem like they could get worse, on April 10, Scherzer’s ankle suffered a bone bruise after getting hit in the game against the Mets. He got an extra day off, and Anibal Sanchez started in his place on Saturday, giving up two runs on seven hits. Scherzer was able to start yesterday against the Pirates and showed no signs of injury in his ankle. He gave up three runs on seven hits and threw 98 pitches.

This isn’t all doom and gloom though. Young outfielders Juan Soto and Victor Robles have been playing well. Their defense is strong, and the two of them engineered the Nats 10–6 comeback victory over the Phillies on April 9. Robles hit a game-tying home run in the top of the 9th, and Soto hit the game winning three run home run in the top of the 10th.

Also, Michael A. Taylor was activated from the injured list on April 8. They optioned Andrew Stevenson to make room, but having Taylor back is an improvement. He didn’t play against the Phillies, but his young outfield partners carried the team for him. Taylor was back on the field on April 14, and made is presence known. He was 1-3 with a walk, but he was most impactful in the field, throwing out a runner at the plate.

To address the bullpen problems, rumor has it that the Nats are trying to sign Bud Norris to a minor league contract. Nothing has been announced yet, but hopefully, we will know more in the next few days. Last season, Norris had a 3.59 ERA in 64 appearances with the St. Louis Cardinals. This will be his 10th season, but at this point, a veteran presence in the young bullpen will be a good thing.

The Nats are off today which will help the bullpen rest and recover from this NL East barrage they have been facing. They will face the San Francisco Giants (7–10) for three more home games. A road trip against the Marlins and Colorado Rockies (4–12) will follow on April 19-24 and will be a welcome respite from their currently challenging schedule.

-Arielle Gordon

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