Nats hoping for total team turnaround
Acta realizes club needs improvements in every aspect
WASHINGTON -- After watching his team lose 102 games last year, Nationals manager Manny Acta said in order for the team to get better, it must improve in all facets of the game.
Washington believed it improved the offense by signing slugger Adam Dunn to a two-year, $20 million contract. And Acta thought the defense would be better with Anderson Hernandez as the everyday second baseman.
But little has changed for the Nationals, as the club has gotten off to a disappointing 3-11 start.
The Nationals are hitting .265, but they have left 107 men on base and are hitting just .243 with runners in scoring position. Wednesday night against the Braves was an example of how bad things were with the bats.
Washington's offense was 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and had three golden opportunities to score runs during the 1-0 defeat.
In the fourth inning, the Nats had Ryan Zimmerman on second and no outs, but they couldn't drive him home. Nick Johnson grounded out to move Zimmerman to third, but Elijah Dukes lined out to shortstop Yunel Escobar and Josh Willingham grounded out to short to end the inning.
An inning later, Washington had runners on first and second with one out, but Alex Cintron hit into a double play.
In the seventh inning, Willingham led off with a double. He did get to third on a sacrifice bunt by Ronnie Belliard, but Jesus Flores grounded out to third baseman Chipper Jones and pinch-hitter Austin Kearns popped up to Escobar.
"We shouldn't put ourselves in that position," Acta said. "Twice, we had runners on third with less than one out. Our situational hitting continues to bury us, to hurt us. You win ballgames by scoring runs, and we haven't been doing that."
Asked what the position players could do to have better success at the plate, Acta said, "All you can do is to work with them and tell them what to do. You can do only so much coaching. I think everybody in this room knows what you need to do when you have a runner with less than two outs. I think they know what to do. Unfortunately, it's not very good for us. We were in the position to score more runs than that."
The team's defense is even worse, ranking 30th in the Major Leagues. The Nationals are having problems turning double plays and fielding their position.
Defensive specialist such as Hernandez, Alberto Gonzalez and Zimmerman already have a combined 10 errors. However, Acta hopes that things will change in the near future.
"I didn't anticipate our defense to be the way it is right now," Acta said. "We have 14 errors, which is dead last in the league. With Gonzalez out there, Anderson out there and Nick healthy, I didn't anticipate this. I'm sure it's going to get better."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.