Nationals searching for answers amid frustrating season

Nationals' Bryce HarperThe Washington Nationals are a far cry from where they thought they would be this season. Washington has been a playoff team for the last two years and three of the last four, but a sweep at the hands of the Boston Red Sox has knocked the Nationals below .500 at the halfway point of the season, throwing their postseason ambitions into question. The Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies both have some breathing room ahead of Washington in the NL East, and the Nationals won’t start closing that gap until they can win a series.

The sweep by the Red Sox was the fourth straight series loss by Washington, which has lost five in a row and is 2-8 in its last 10. These recent results are a microcosm of the Nationals’ season, which has been derailed by inconsistent hitting and untimely pitching gaffes from an otherwise stacked roster. Star hitter Bryce Harper leads the team in home runs and RBI, but he is also batting a career-low .215 in 2018, while two-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer is the one of the team’s only starting pitchers with a winning record.

In the wake of these frustrating performances, Washington decided to have a team-only meeting featuring a fiery speech by Scherzer. With seven games separating the Nationals from the division-leading Braves, that fire will need to translate onto the field as Thursday, when Washington hosts the Miami Marlins. Washington’s turnaround might need to occur without starting pitcher Erick Fedde, who left Wednesday’s game with shoulder tightness and is listed as day-to-day.

The Nationals batting order could be in line for some reinforcements with the return of Matt Adams, who was activated off the disabled list after missing two weeks with a broken finger. Whether the team meeting and Adams’ return will be enough to spark an offense that has produced just 12 runs over five games remains to be seen. Washington achieved new heights as a franchise in 2017, and change is sure to come if this season ends up being a major step backwards.