WASHINGTON — The World Series champion Washington Nationals are 1-4 after losing three games in a row. Normally? Not a big deal. Matters more in a 60-game, pandemic-shortened season.
Missing slugger Juan Soto, they’ve scored a grand total of four runs during the skid, including a 5-1 loss to the Blue Jays on Tuesday night that included two outfielders colliding on a homer by Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr., two errors by second baseman Starlin Castro that led to three unearned runs, and just one hit for Washington after the third inning.
“In a longer season, you get time to feel these things out,” said Nationals shortstop Trea Turner, who was caught stealing in the sixth, one of the gaffes manager Dave Martinez noted afterward. “Now it’s definitely magnified.”
There’s no doubt Soto’s absence is a big deal; he’s been out since opening day because of a positive COVID-19 test.
“We definitely miss him,” Turner said, “and we need him back.”
Martinez agreed, of course. But he also wanted to set aside the scoring issues, because, as he put it: “The hitting’s going to come and go.”
More worrisome to a skipper who turned around this club after it opened 2019 with a 19-31 mark were the other problems.
“The overall play. The defense. The baserunning. We’ve got to clean that up. We’ve got to play better. We’ve got to play better. Can’t make those mental mistakes. Those are mental mistakes to me. And we’ll get it,” Martinez said. “Sometimes when you’re trying to create something, make things happen, you start overthinking or over-analyzing, just trying to do something aggressively. I want these guys just to relax and play baseball. Just have some fun.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.