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Things are not adding up for the Nationals right now

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Here is the current state of the Nationals, summed up in one inning of baseball played Tuesday night during a 6-1 loss to the Mets:

They scored a run without producing a hit. Then their first hit of the game actually prevented a run from scoring.

Something’s just not adding up at the moment for a Nationals club that at times looks like the most-dominant team in the National League yet lately has been finding creative and agonizing ways to lose ballgames, and as a result just can’t create much space between itself and the Braves in the NL East.

“I think the way the season’s gone, the way it’s happened with injuries and guys being banged up all year, I think we’re in a pretty good spot,” Jayson Werth said. “We’re finally healthy, and I think we’re playing pretty good baseball. I think the distance will come in time.

“I feel like we’re going to go on a run here at some point, too. I like where we’re at. I like the way we’re playing night-in and night-out. We’ve been pitching good, the defense has been good, the hitting’s been good for the most part. The last couple nights we haven’t been able to get the big hit. But all in all, I feel like we’re in a good spot.”

That may prove to be the case, but at the moment, the Nationals remain in first place in the NL East more a result of the Braves’ struggles — they carried a 6-game losing streak into last night’s late game against Felix Hernandez in Seattle — than as a result of their own consistently impressive play.

They’ve now lost 8-of-13 games since Ryan Zimmerman suffered a serious hamstring strain in Colorado, and their lineup appears to be suffering for it. Though they’ve averaged 12 men on base in each of those 13 games, they’ve scored an average of only 3.5 runs. (Throw out Saturday’s 11-run explosion against the Phillies and that number drops to 2.9.)

The opportunities certainly were there for the taking Tuesday against Zack Wheeler and the Mets. Wheeler put seven men on base during a 10-batter stretch in the second and third innings, yet the only run he surrendered came via a wild pitch (following three walks).

And the hit that actually prevented a run from scoring? It came off Jose Lobaton’s bat, with runners on second and third and one out in the second. Trouble is, it struck teammate Asdrubal Cabrera as he tried to advance from second to third. By rule, Cabrera was out, Lobaton was awarded a single and Ian Desmond had to return to third base. Had Cabrera avoided contact, the groundout would’ve scored Desmond. Instead, the Nats got nothing out of it.

“I didn’t see that ball coming towards me,” Cabrera said. “He hit it hard enough that I didn’t even know. I thought it was right to my left.”

That was probably the low point of the night, though it was hardly the Nationals’ only squandered opportunity at the plate. They also twice hit into double plays with two on and nobody out (Werth and pinch-hitter Steven Souza Jr. were the culprits), saw Werth thrown out at the plate on Adam LaRoche’s sixth-inning single and saw Desmond strand six men on base via two comebackers and a strikeout.

“There’s no common thread,” manager Matt Williams insisted. “There’s no way to say: ‘OK, this is because, this is why.’ No, I mean, I haven’t seen a guy get hit with a batted ball in a while. He tried to skip over it. The ball actually was hit pretty hard by Loby and it skipped off the grass and it just nicked him. It happens sometimes. It seems like it’s going the wrong way the last couple of days, but we can turn that around tomorrow.”

The Nationals will give it another shot Wednesday night. They’ve got two more games with the Mets before heading to Atlanta for a crucial weekend series, hoping they can create enough cushion between themselves and the Braves to ensure they leave town in first place no matter the result.

“We’re pretty much aware of everything,” Werth said. “We know what’s going on around here. I feel like we’re in control of our game and where we’re at in the season. I just feel like at some point we’re going to go on a roll and rattle off some wins. We’ve got some division games coming up. August-September is really the time to go on a roll if you’re going to do it. I feel like we’re poised to finish this thing off, but we’ve got to continue to play good.”

Rick Ankiel drank vodka before a start to deal with the yips

9 Apr 2000: Rick Ankiel #66 of the St. Louis Cardinals winds back to pitch the ball during the game against the Milwaukee Brweers at the Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals defeated the Brewers 11-2. Mandatory Credit: Elsa Hasch  /Allsport
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The story of Rick Ankiel is well known by now. He was a phenom pitcher who burst onto the scene with the Cardinals in 1999 and into the 2000 season as one of the top young talents in the game. Then, in the 2000 playoffs, he melted down. He got the yips. Whatever you want to call it, he lost the ability to throw strikes and his pitching career was soon over. He came back, however, against all odds, and remade his career as a solid outfielder.

It’s inspirational and incredible. But there is a lot more to the story that we’ve ever known. We will soon, however, as Ankiel is coming out with a book. Today he took to the airwaves and shared some about it. Including some amazing stuff:

On drinking in his first start after the famous meltdown in Game One of the 2000 National League division series against the Braves:

“Before that game…I’m scared to death. I know I have no chance. Feeling the pressure of all that, right before the game I get a bottle of vodka. I just started drinking vodka. Low and behold, it kind of tamed the monster, and I was able to do what I wanted. I’m sitting on the bench feeling crazy I have to drink vodka to pitch through this. It worked for that game. (I had never drank before a game before). It was one of those things like the yipps, the monster, the disease…it didn’t fight fair so I felt like I wasn’t going to fight fair either.”

Imagine spending your whole life getting to the pinnacle of your career. Then imagine it immediately disintegrating. And then imagine having to go out and do it again in front of millions. It’s almost impossible for anyone to contemplate and, as such, it’s hard to judge almost anything Ankiel did in response to that when he was 21 years-old. That Ankiel got through that and made a career for himself is absolutely amazing. It’s a testament to his drive and determination.

 

Justin Turner talks “Easy D”

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  Justin Turner #10 of the Los Angeles Dodgers warms up prior to game six of the National League Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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A couple of weeks ago our president wrote one of his more . . . vexing tweets. He was talking about immigration when he whipped out the phrase . . . “Easy D”:

No one was quite sure what he meant by Easy D. Was it the older brother of N.W.A.’s founder? The third sequel to that Emma Stone movie from a few years back? So many questions!

Baseball Twitter had fun with it, though, with a lot of people wondering how they could work it in casually to their commentary:

It wasn’t a scout who did it, but twelve days after that, a player obliged Mr. McCullough:

I have no more idea what Turner was talking about with that than Trump was. We’ll have to wait for the full story in the L.A. Times. But I am going to assume Turner was doing McCullough a solid with that one rather than commenting on the president’s tweet. Either way, I’m glad he made the effort.

And before you ask: yes, it’s a slow news day.