Dusty Baker Defends Team Against ‘Loaded’ Question

WASHINGTON — After the Nationals took their fourth loss in five games, Dusty Baker had a tough night at the podium ahead of him.

He didn’t hold back.

Baker was asked about the state of his team, and whether it is really as bad as its recent play has indicated.

“We hit some balls hard that [the San Diego Padres] made some great plays on,” Baker said Friday night. “That’s not a very good question to ask me: ‘Is my team that bad?’ I don’t think that’s a good question ever, really. That’s kind of a loaded question, kind of a negative question. I’m not gonna get on top of my guys because they’re struggling. You don’t kick dirt on people when they’re down.”

As for why the Nationals haven’t been able to pull out victories recently, there are many reasons.

Stephen Strasburg, who has been one of the top pitchers in baseball all year, was rocked for six runs in the first three innings on Thursday. That was difficult to overcome, but not impossible; the Nationals actually out-hit the Los Angeles Dodgers in that game, 10 to 8, and they drew four walks to the Dodgers’ one. But Los Angeles went 3 for 6 with runners in scoring position while Washington went just 1 for 13.

Friday night, the Nationals and Padres each managed exactly six hits and two walks, but San Diego went 2 for 2 with runners in scoring position while Washington went just 1 for 5.

“We’re not getting the big hits and we’re making some untimely mistakes to some big hitters,” Baker offered.

The skipper cited a single hitter in each of the past two games that destroyed the Nationals: Justin Turner, who went 2 for 3 with 2 home runs and 5 RBIs in the Dodgers’ 6-3 win on Thursday, and Matt Kemp, who went 2 for 4 with 2 home runs and 4 RBIs in the Padres’ 5-3 win on Friday. The two of them combined for nine RBIs in pair of games in which the Nationals allowed 11 total runs.

In short, it’s a case of the Nationals not taking advantage of opportunities they create while their opponents do just that. Even when they’ve gotten big hits, they’ve come at less than ideal times — Daniel Murphy and Jayson Werth each homered against the Padres, but both were solo shots.

Washington still leads the Miami Marlins by 4.5 games and the New York Mets by 5.0 games, and it trails the Chicago Cubs by just 2.0 games for the best record in baseball, so it’s not exactly panic time. But with the trade deadline looming, perhaps another game or two like this will encourage the Nationals to pursue additional help at the plate.

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