The Defending World Series Champions Washington Nationals Scuffling as Postseason Nears

Devin Garner

The Washington Nationals–the defending World Series Champions–are scuffling as they near the end of the regular season. They currently sit at 12 and 22 and are in last place in the National League East. While young phenom Juan Soto and the speedy shortstop Trea Turner have been leading the league in numerous categories, the team has been inconsistent at the plate and unreliable on the pitching mound. 

As the Major League Baseball (MLB) season did not begin until July this year due to health concerns amidst the coronavirus pandemic, many considered the season to be a sprint rather than a marathon. The 2020 season would only consist of 60 games instead of the full 162. Not only was the season shortened, but the universal designated hitter rule was put into place, the international tie-breaker rule will take place if a game reaches extra innings and there are no fans in the stands to cheer on the players.

While this news came as a shock to many, the Nationals fans and players knew that they must get off to a quick start to have a chance at defending their title this season, and they surely have not done that. The pitching staff ranks 25th in the league and the team’s fielding ranks 21st in the league as of September 3. While the team is in the top half of the league for hitting, they have been unable to string together hits to put runs on the board.

Even though the team is struggling, they have had many bright spots throughout the season. Shortstop Trea Turner and left fielder Juan Soto lead the league in batting average– as they stand at one and two on the leaderboard– and young reliever Tanner Rainey has turned into a stud out of the bullpen. Rainey currently has a 1.10 earned run average.

Turner has turned into the remarkable franchise star that they needed him to be after the departures of star players Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon. As previously noted, Turner boasts the best batting average in the MLB as of September 3. Barry Svrluga of “The Washington Post” talks about the impact of Turner in his article: “Trea Turner is all grown up and developing into one of the best shortstops in baseball.” In the article, Svrluga argues “the Nationals, right now, do not appear to be capable of re-creating 2019 in 2020. But if they do become a contender again, it will be in part because Trea Turner has developed into one of baseball’s best shortstops, a process that could be happening before our eyes.”

As Turner’s success has not gone unnoticed throughout the league, the front office did not make any moves prior to the August 31 trade deadline. While this may signal that the team is flipping the page to next year, it is important to recognize the success of many of the young stars on the ballclub. As Turner hit an inside-the-park home run on September 3 amidst a losing streak, Jessie Camerato of MLB.com states: “Need a way to get the offense going? Try an inside-the-park homerun.” While the Nationals continue to scuffle, it is important for fans to sit back and watch the success of the young players who are showing that they stand among the best in the game.

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