Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nats missed Adam Dunn's bat the last three days.
When the Nats arrived at Coors Field Friday afternoon, they had scored a combined 26 runs over the previous three days and players and coaches spoke as though this was finally the kind of productive offense they had been expecting to emerge for a while.
So what happened? Five days and five losses later, that same offense has produced a total of 10 runs. And thus the Nationals club that returns home tonight to face the Mets is sitting at .500 (20-20).
Perhaps we were too quick in declaring the Nats lineup "clicking on all cylinders." Or perhaps there were other factors at play. Such as the fact Jim Riggleman hasn't fielded his top 1-through-8 in any of the last five games. Indeed, we haven't seen the lineup of Morgan-Kennedy-Zimmerman-Dunn-Willingham-Rodriguez-Bernadina-Desmond since the 14-6 victory Thursday night in Denver.
It's not Riggleman's fault. It's the weather's. And the injury bug's.
First off, Friday night's game in Colorado was rained out. The resulting day-night doubleheader Saturday forced Riggleman to give some guys a breather, not wanting to run them into the ground during a stretch that already saw the Nats playing 20 games in 20 days.
On top of that, both Josh Willingham and Adam Dunn were hampered by physical ailments. Willingham was out of the lineup for both games of Saturday's doubleheader with a mild groin strain. Then on Sunday, Dunn showed up with flu-like symptoms and was held out. He hasn't returned since and in fact yesterday flew back to D.C. for what Riggleman called a "minor procedure" related to some kind of physical ailment.
Dunn may or may not be available tonight for the start of this five-game homestand. If he's not, it will mark the sixth straight game in which the Nationals take the field with something less than their best lineup.
Riggleman has been mixing and matching all season. He's only used one lineup more than twice so far: the aforementioned order, which has been used four times to date. That lineup's record: 4-0.
Is it fair to blame the offense's regress of the last five days entirely on injuries and the weather? No. If you've watched these games, you know plenty of guys haven't come through at the plate in key situations.
But the Nationals also don't have the kind of offensive depth to overcome injuries to their No. 4 or No. 5 hitter. For them to have their best chance at success, they need their full complement of hitters in the lineup.