LOS ANGELES — Playoff pressure is getting to the Washington Nationals.
“I feel like right now, we’re trying a little too hard,” leadoff man Trea Turner said following his team’s 6-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the National League Division Series. “Just have a little bit more fun and continue what we were doing. I think we put together good at-bats. [We’re] just trying to do a little too much.”
Against Walker Buehler and a trio of relievers, the Nats managed just two hits, including a second-inning single by Juan Soto and a ninth-inning double by Turner. They loaded the bases against Buehler in the fourth on three walks but failed to score, and they proceeded to have just one baserunner over the final five frames. On the night, the Nationals chased 41 percent of pitches that were thrown outside the strike zone, their second-highest chase rate in any game this year and well above their season mark (27 percent, second-lowest in the NL).
“We got to get the ball in the strike zone,” said manager Davey Martinez, whose club scored 5.4 runs per game during the regular season, second-best in the NL. “For me that’s the key. When we swing at balls in the strike zone, we put the ball in play. That’s what we have done all year.”
The anemic offensive showing comes two days after Washington’s 4-3 wild card win, a contest in which the Nationals tallied one run on three hits through the first seven innings and finished with five total hits
“I think we’ve kind of done that the last two games,” said Turner, “is just tried way too hard from the start.”
When it comes to the postseason, struggling at the start is nothing new for the Nats. In five series openers since 2012, they’re hitting .164 as a team and averaging 1.6 runs. In 21 total playoff games, Washington is scoring 3.5 runs per contest, nearly half a run lower than the MLB postseason average over that time (3.9).
“So we just got to relax and come back tomorrow and just get the ball in the zone,” said Martinez. “We told the guys, hey, just be yourself. Don’t try to do too much.”
On Friday in Game 2 of the NLDS, the Nationals will face three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw.
“It’s the postseason. You’re not going to get anybody easy,” said Turner. “It’s going to be another battle, just like tonight. Hopefully we can put some runs early and get into that bullpen.”