By Rick Snider

It’s easy to blame Washington manager Dusty Baker for the Nationals being one loss away from first-round elimination for the fourth time in six years.

Maybe Baker should have put in a defensive replacement for aging outfielder Jayson Werth in the eighth inning. The game-winning blooper between three Nats in the 2-1 loss on Monday was poor defense by the entire trio, but a faster outfielder would have waved off the other two and perhaps caught the inning’s final out.

And maybe Baker should have entrusted one of the three premier relievers the team obtained at midseason for that key moment. Baker was thinking about extra innings, but you can’t get there by losing in the eighth.

There are other things, too. But, here’s the bottom line: the Nats once more can’t hit in the postseason. Every year they rock the regular season, this time with five .300 hitters. And once more the guns have gone silent in October, with Washington blowing pitching gems by Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer by scoring zero and one run, respectively, in the losses. Really, this series would have been over already if Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper hadn’t delivered late homers in Game 2.

The Nats are batting .121 with 11 hits over three games. That’s usually three losses. Trea Turner doesn’t have a hit as the leadoff man. The heart of the lineup – Harper, Anthony Rendon, Daniel Murphy and Zimmerman — were 0-for-16 in Game 3.

It’s easy to blame Baker, but he’s not batting 0-for-16. Who knows why the Nats can’t hit come postseason, but unless there’s a sudden awakening, it won’t last past one more game. And then everyone can debate whether Baker’s contract should be renewed.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter @Snide_Remarks.

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