Nationals Fall Below .500, As Frustration Sets In For Washington

With their disappointing loss yesterday, the Washington Nationals are now 10-11, under .500 for the first time since 2011. While it is April, and it is of course, very very early, it is still a blow to the excitement that the start of this season held.

Being a Nationals fan at one time meant having guarded enthusiasm, wanting to be proud of a team that loses 100 games is never easy to do. Then, in the last two years, it had meant having guarded confidence, we were a franchise moving in the right direction, but it was still hard to believe that it would actually come to fruition. Then, this year, the local and National media told us it was ok to wear our Curly W with pride, to boast to everyone that Washington was the favorite to win the World Series in 2013. It was a freeing feeling, not having to justify your fandom to anyone else, to have others envy your team’s prospect of playing into deep October. Being a Nats fan meant being excited.

While not much has really changed since Opening Day for the Washington Nationals or their fan base, the one thing that is gone, at least for now, is that feeling of confidence that was soaring high in mid-March. The 10-11 record isn’t as daunting as the truth that the team just isn’t playing well, and that the functions of the team that we thought were its strongest pieces, are actually the parts that are falling apart. That’s just a scary truth that is hard to combat.

Yesterday afternoon’s 4-2 loss was a perfect microcosm of everything that has Washington fans scared this April. The club had their ace, possibly the best pitcher in baseball on the mound in an effort to put a stop to a losing streak that threatened to drop them below .500. Stephen Strasburg, the head of what was thought to be an invincible rotation, gave up three earned runs, all in the first inning, putting the Nats in a hole they couldn’t dig out of.  For the 24-year-old, it was the fourth straight game he’d given up 2 or more runs, and the third game out of five total that he’d allowed three or more. He now has four straight losses.

It’s becoming more and more evident that as Strasburg goes, it seems so does the Nationals.

But what’s most interesting is that even though Strasburg has lost four straight games, he hasn’t pitched horrendously. He still has a 3.16 ERA, and has 28 strikeouts to only 8 walks. The problem for him has been, as it has for the entire Nationals team, is that he is clumping together spurts of bad luck, bad defense, and bad performance, into short but horribly timed failures that are costing the team games. And that’s just been the story for the entire Washington team this year.

You can look at the numbers and say that the bullpen has been bad, the defense has been awful, and the offense has been streaky, but what it really just feels like is that everyone on this squad, perhaps even the fans, are still in a terrible hangover from October 13, 2012.

Someone get me a cup of coffee.