WASHINGTON (AP) — Nationals manager Davey Johnson got what he wanted, a second consecutive rainout to give his battered team an extra day to heal.
Maybe the mental break will turn out to be the catalyst the Nationals have been seeking. Certainly, nothing else has worked so far.
The preseason NL East favorite remained one game below .500 Friday, when a series opener against the Minnesota Twins was postponed as rain from Tropical Storm Andrea moved north. The game will be made up as part of a day-night doubleheader on Sunday.
The Nationals’ Thursday night game against the New York Mets also was washed out, and Johnson said afterward that “even one more rainout would be better.”
“With the number of guys we have on the DL, this is a welcome call,” Johnson said.
Young marquee stars Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper head a disabled list that also includes another starting pitcher (Ross Detwiler) and two other position players who started on opening day, catcher Wilson Ramos and second baseman Danny Espinosa. If nothing else, the rainouts mean the Nationals won’t have to promote a pitcher from the minors to take Strasburg’s turn in the rotation this weekend.
But the Nationals’ woes go beyond the injuries. They’re hitting .230 with a major league-worst .287 on-base percentage. Harper has missed 25 games, yet he leads the team in homers (12) and runs (29) and is second in walks (25). Ryan Zimmerman is the only regular in the current lineup hitting better than .270. Bench players who contributed so well last season when starters were out now look like they belong on the bench: Roger Bernadina (.165), Tyler Moore (.149) and Chad Tracy (.145).
But there’s another stat that shows just how much the Nationals will be fighting history if they want to make a championship run: They’re getting clobbered a lot.
They’ve already lost nine games — that’s nearly one-third of their losses — by six or more runs, including Wednesday’s 10-1 defeat to the Mets. Traditionally, top teams don’t get beat that badly that often.
Those nine blowout losses already match the entire regular-season total of four of the last six World Series champions. The 2009 New York Yankees had 15, but even that number pales compared to Washington’s current pace of 25. Last year’s Nationals, who finished with the best record in baseball, had only eight.
The Nationals woke up Friday trailing the first-place Atlanta Braves by 7½ games. However, there remain more 100 games to play. Johnson and his players have stressed the need for patience over panic to the point that the words sound rote, as in when Johnson repeated the message Thursday.
“It’s a long season. We’ve gone through some injuries,” the manager said. “I think we’re going to come out of it all right. We got the guys here to do it. We need to get on with it.”
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