The Washington Nationals lost their fifth game in a row last night in a 0-9 blowout to the Miami Marlins. It was an ugly game to say the least as star hurler Stephen Strasburg got tuned up on the mound and the Nats lineup looked helpless at the plate. But the disabling undertone that made matters far worse was the fact that as the Marlins lashed the ball around the park, everyone watching knew that the Nats were en route to earning their fifth loss in a row.
In previous years that number would mean very little to Nats fans, but as this team bolted its way to the top of the standings this summer, winning became very important to Washingtonians. For the longest time Nationals fans refused to let themselves believe that this team was a winner. History had told them not to. Now, in August, when playoff tickets are beginning to become available, and national news networks are ranking the team as National League favorites, fans guarded hopes that had briefly been raised are being battered by a five game losing streak which has made the 2012 Nats look like teams of previous years.
Losing streaks are bad, but they are inevitable. The law of averages dictates that the ridiculous road record the Nationals were putting up through the middle of August was unsustainable. Prior to this streak the Nats had won more games on the road than any team in baseball (including Washington) had won at home. That’s just not realistic no matter how good a team is.
The issue, however, is when losing streaks leave the field and poison the confidence of the young players in the clubhouse. It’s easy for not only fans, but players to look at this losing streak and see this amazing season slipping away game-by-game. When things go bad, players have a tendency to press the issue to make them get better quicker, but as baseball is a game of patience this can make matters even worse. As a hitter you must wait for your pitch and drive it. As a pitcher you must dance around the plate forcing batters mistakes. As a fielder you sometimes have to concede that the runner going from second to home will score and make the play to keep the batter at first.
Pressing is the absolute worst thing this team can do right now because in the grand scheme of things, a five game losing streak is really only as bad as we treat it. This marks the second five game streak this season for the team. They also had a four game streak once, and have boasted three game losing streaks five times this year. In a 162 game season, these things happen.
The best thing the Nats can do right now is enter tonight’s game with the same thought process they entered last Wednesday’s match-up with, a night when they had won 28-11 since the All-Star break.