After adding Max Scherzer in the offseason, the Washington Nationals were considered the favorites to win the World Series with 6-1 odds. There was a time in May when the Nationals looked every bit of a World Series contender after winning nine straight series. Now after losing 8 of 10 and 10 of their last 15 games, the Nationals seem to have some serious question marks as we pass the 1/3 mark of the season.
Let’s start by looking at the health of the ball club. This team has yet to send out the lineup that it expected it would have in Spring Training. Anthony Rendon missed the first two months of the season with a knee and oblique injury. Denard Span started the season on the disabled list and missed most of April. Jayson Werth started the season on the DL. He never truly got into the swing of things, and he now looks to be out until at least August 1 with a wrist fracture. Ryan Zimmerman, who has played all but three games this year, has been dealing with planter fasciitis and has struggled because of it.
Unfortunately for the Nationals, those are just the injuries that the position players have dealt with. The pitching staff, which had and still has enormous expectations, has had its share of injuries as well. Doug Fister was so vital for the Nats last year, but he has been out about a month with forearm tightness. Stephen Strasburg, who has struggled mightily this year, was placed on the DL with neck and shoulder tightness. Both of these players will look to return here within the next few weeks.
Injuries are not the Nationals' only problem this year. Their offense has been abysmal lately. Some of this could be due to injuries and the lineup's unsettling so far this season, but, regardless, the offense needs to be better. In the Nationals' last 10 games, they have averaged 2.7 runs per game and have a very poor .297 on base percentage as a team.
The Nationals' bullpen has also struggled this year. Three vital pieces of the bullpen from 2014 are not on the 2015 roster, and the current relievers have struggled to find their identities. Tyler Clippard (traded for Yunel Escobar), Jerry Blevins (traded for Matt Van Dekker) and Rafael Soriano (released) seem to be missed more than most expected. With the exception of Drew Storen, who has been fantastic in the closer's role this year, the Nationals' bullpen as a whole has really struggled.
The Nationals' biggest problem, however, may be consistency. After a disappointing start to the year when the Nationals were 7-13 in their first 20 games, they started to show everyone why they were World Series favorites in Spring Training. The Nationals went 21-6 over their next 27 and were really hitting on all cylinders thanks in large part to Bryce Harper. Lately, however, the Nationals have really struggled. They have two wins in their last 10 games and have since fallen out of first place in the National League East.
The Nationals will look to turn their fortunes around when they visit Yankee stadium on Tuesday night. The Yankees have won six straight games. Scherzer, who has been stellar for the Nationals, will face off against Masahiro Tanaka.