How does “That’s Life” go again?  “Flying high in April–shot down in May”?  The Nationals were flying high in May but got shot down during June’s first week– going 2-5 and losing two more series (running their slide to three straight after winning nine series in a row).  The offense that hummed (ranking 5th in hitting and 7th in runs scored) last month hit a few bumps;  hitting .237 (23rd in majors) and scoring 2.57 runs per game (27th).  While the pitching has also slipped somewhat (team ERA from 16th in May to 22nd this month, opponents batting average from 17th to 21st in June) the flat bats remain the major early culprit.  

You want to put your best bats in the lineup every day while limiting one’s defensive deficiencies…but with the triumvirate of Michael A. Taylor, Tyler Moore and Clint Robinson combining to hit .204 with 3 walks and 14 strikeouts last week one wonders if Sunday’s substitution of infielder Danny Espinosa into leftfield is an isolated incident or a realistic option.

Now that Anthony Rendon’s healthy (after missing the first 53 games of the season with knee and oblique issues) and Yunel Escobar (.325 and on pace to score 84 runs) remains productive, at-bats are beginning to shrink for Espinosa.  That’s a shame because he’s actually having a productive season:  Espi’s second on the team in homers and walks while he’s currently tied for second on the team in runs scored.  As a switch-hitter, he’s fared much better against lefties (.375) than Taylor (.172), Moore (.105) or Robinson (0-2).  Do you put an infielder in the outfield for the next two months while Jayson Werth heals and rehabs?

Last Week’s Hero– Jordan Zimmermann was the leader in the clubhouse until he coughed up 4 runs over 5 innings Sunday.  Instead, it’s back to Bryce Harper (1.012 OPS).  Two major differences over his first 56 games of 2015– patience and power.  Harper’s 48 walks are 13 shy of his career high (over 118 games in 2013) while his .706 slugging percentage outpaces his career high by over 200 points.  Keep the kid healthy…

Last Week’s Humbled– Ryan Zimmerman went 1 for 18 with 1 RBI, was moved to 2nd in the batting order and sat multiple games with a foot injury.  While he remains on pace to hit 14 homers with 97 RBI…they can ill afford his bat drying up with Werth on the DL.  Here’s hoping the extra days off gets Zim back on the right track.

Game to Watch– Tuesday at the New York Yankees.  Max Scherzer is 6-4 with a 1.85 ERA…while Masahiro Tanaka is 3-1 with an ERA of 2.76.  Alex Rodriguez is enjoying a career resurgence.  And there’s no better stage than the bright lights of the Bronx.

Game to Miss– Friday at Milwaukee.  The Brewers pitch Mike Fiers (2-6, 4.06 ERA) while the Nats will likely continue to try to hold their rotation together with duct tape and rubber bands:  Joe Ross (5.40 ERA), A.J. Cole (5.79) and Taylor Jordan (8.44) may represent the future– but the present is less than ideal.  Also Friday– the Women’s World Cup continues with Team USA facing Sweden.  If you’re going to skip a Nats game, do so to support your country.

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