The Washington Nationals' Offense Is Once Again Struggling in the Playoffs
It's deja vu all over again for the Washington Nationals.
Since 2012, Washington has won the National League East in four of six seasons. They have been one of the best regular season teams in baseball for more than half a decade now, but the Nats have not won a playoff series in that time, falling in the Divisional Round in each of those four seasons.
After a heart-breaking 2-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs in Game 3 of the NLDS yesterday, the Nats are staring at another early-round exit square in the face. And they have only their high-powered offense to blame.
Washington's lineup is loaded with stars. Trea Turner, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy, Michael Taylor and Jayson Werth form a lineup that is one of the deepest in the National League. But in their three postseason games, the bats have gone cold.
As a team, they are hitting .121/.200/.231 for an OPS of .431 -- by far the worst numbers of all the playoff teams. Excluding the two teams that lost the one-game wild card playoff, the Nats' seven runs scored in three games are the fewest in the postseason, and five of those runs came on two home runs by Harper and Zimmerman in the 8th inning of Game 2. In the other 25 innings, they've scored twice.
When talking about the playoffs, we are, of course, dealing with small sample sizes. Given that reality, here are how individual players on the team have performed through three October contests this season.
These are the only players on the Nationals who have gotten at least one base hit in the three games against the Cubs thus far.
This isn't the first time Washington's offense has failed them in the playoffs. In 2014, the team batted .164/.222/.258 and scored 9 runs in four games in a first-round loss against the San Francisco Giants. In 2012, they hit .232/.290/.393 with 16 runs scored in five games, a slightly better performance. Last season was the outlier, with the Nats' hitting a postseason best .251/.350/.365, scoring 24 runs in five games against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The result of having an under-performing offense in the postseason is a number of crushing one-run losses, a theme for this team in their four playoff appearances over the last six years.
Margin of defeat for the Nationals' past 9 postseason losses, going back to 2012 NLDS Game 5.
Nine losses by 12 total runs ... oof. pic.twitter.com/bdZGwp6gdX
— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) October 10, 2017
Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann collectively have 2.79 ERA in 7 postseason starts for #Nats. Team is 0-7 in those games.
— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) October 10, 2017
According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Nationals are the first team to lose multiple games in a postseason series in which they didn't allow a hit through the first five innings, and it's the fifth time in the team's postseason history that it has lost a game after their starter allowed one hit or fewer in at least six innings. They have gotten 12 no-hit innings from Strasburg and Scherzer in this series and lost both games.
In Game 3, they lost despite the Cubs committing four errors. In Game 1 and Game 3, they have gone a combined 5-for-61 overall, including 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position. In Game 3 alone, the fearsome foursome of Harper, Rendon, Murphy and Zimmerman went 1-for-16.
This is a team that scored 819 runs in the regular season, third-most in the National League, behind the Cubs (822) and the Colorado Rockies (824). They have two MVP candidates in Rendon and Harper. They have the certain Comeback Player of the Year Award winner in Zimmerman. They have one of the best pure hitters in the game in Murphy, and one of baseball's best young stars in Turner.
And yet, here they are again, flailing away in the postseason, with another first-round exit just one more loss away.