FENDRICH ON BASEBALL: Nationals historically bad in opening week Print
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Monday, 09 April 2007 10:28
MLB Headline News

 WASHINGTON (AP) -Plenty of teams end disappointing seasons and say, ``We'll get 'em next year!'' The way the Washington Nationals have started 2007, they're essentially telling the world, ``We'll get 'em in a few years!''
It's not only that the Nationals went 1-6 in the first week. It's how they did it: At no point this season when a pitch was thrown has Washington led a game.
``The way things have been going for us right now,'' right-hander John Patterson said, ``you don't want to just go, 'Oh, no, here we go again.' We can't do that.''
Washington has been outscored 45-18, and the only time the Nationals were ahead came when the final run crossed the plate in a three-run bottom of the ninth Wednesday for a 7-6 comeback victory over Florida.
``We're not the only team that has started with one win in the first week of the season. Everybody goes through those stretches,'' first-year manager Manny Acta said. ``We're going to reel off a few wins, too.''
Washington's cobbled-together rotation was expected to have problems and has - the starters are 0-6 with an NL-worst 7.15 ERA. But the problems are everywhere.
The offense scored a total of three runs Friday to Sunday while going through an 0-for-30 drought with runners in scoring position. The Nationals managed one hit and zero runs through eight innings Friday, six hits and zero runs through five innings Saturday, and zero hits through 5 2-3 innings Sunday.
``We definitely have to do better,'' outfielder Austin Kearns said.
There's more. No team in the majors made more errors than Washington's eight through Sunday. The Nationals haven't tried to steal a base, while opponents are 7-for-7 in steal attempts.
``They're due to break out and start playing the kind of baseball they think they're capable of,'' said Tim Hudson, who starts for the Atlanta Braves against Washington on Tuesday night. ``This is big league baseball. You don't expect them to get behind like that every game.''
Since 1900, no club trailed 4-0 in each of a season's first six games until the Nationals did so. Washington has been outscored 13-0 in first innings and 22-0 in innings one through three this season.
``It's tough,'' third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. ``It's always tough to play from behind.''
So how much could this team use an early lead?
``I don't even know what that is,'' outfielder Ryan Church said.
Rarely are teams thrilled about playing on the road, but Acta smiled when asked about this silver lining: For the next six games, at Atlanta and the New York Mets, the Nationals get to bat first and therefore have a chance to score first for a change.
``That's a good way to look at it,'' Acta said. ``Because at home, it seems like every time we come to the plate, we've been trailing. So now we'll be able to hit before we're trailing, at least.''
Acta, Zimmerman and others keep emphasizing that ``it's early,'' a standard reminder when baseball teams struggle at the outset of a 162-game season.
``You can't hit the panic button,'' Kearns said.
After all, it's not as if the Nationals were considered contenders coming out of spring training.
Alfonso Soriano left via free agency, Nick Johnson only recently started jumping rope as he works his way back from a broken right leg, Patterson was the only returning starter, and president Stan Kasten and general manager Jim Bowden are overseeing a rebuilding project.
Instead of spending to fill out the roster, the Nationals trimmed their payroll from $63 million to $37 million and invested in scouting and player development. A week into the season, three players who never had been above Double-A and one never past Class-A have made their major league debuts.
All of those are reasons why Zimmerman, runner-up in NL Rookie of the Year voting last season, is confident his teammates aren't going to let early woes get to them.
``It they can't handle it this year, I don't know what year they would be able to handle it. There's no expectations,'' he said. ``So for people to be nervous or people to get uptight - there's no reason to. ... If we can learn this year as a team, I think it's going to help us, because a lot of us are younger.''
AP Sports Writer Charles Odum in Atlanta contributed to this report.


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