The sadsack baseball team that is the Washington Nationals has been the target of many a joke here at Walkoff Walk, from their impotent outfield offense to their futile television ratings to their miserable taste in music. Instead of switching gears and praising their young pitching staff or thoughtful manager, Manny Acta, allow me to kick 'em again: The Nationals are not that far away from setting a record for shutouts.
Not games where they prevented the other team from scoring, no, the Nationals have done that a robust seven times in 2008, I mean games where the offense fails to escort one of their own across home plate, which has happened to them SEVENTEEN times this season (subscription req'd):
For their part, the Nationals were shut out for the 17th time this season, and have now gone scoreless in their last 22 frames. Washington has gotten shut out six more times than the team with the next highest total, Detroit. If the Nats continue getting shut down at their current pace, they will finish with 24 whitewashings, which would be tied for the fourth highest team total since 1956. The record in the last 50 years is held by the 1963 Mets, who were blanked 30 times in their second year of existence.
That all happened after getting shutout on Friday and Saturday by Brewers hurlers CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets. The Nats 'rallied' for four runs in yesterday's loss, but three of the runs were charged to Eric Gagne, so they don't count; in the three weekend games, the Nats scored just one run off Brewers starters. Dave Bush goes today; he's 2-2 with a 3.47 ERA against Washington in his career.
So what's it gonna take for the Nationals to maintain their inadequacy for the rest of the year and break the Mets' record? Well, they need less Lastings Milledge (.931 OPS in the last month), Ronnie Belliard (.996), and Willie Harris (.928), and they need more All-Star Cristian Guzman (.521). Stinkeroo! For his part, Milledge leads the team with 12 ding-dongs, including three taters he hit in the past week. Put the kid on the Marlins, though, and he's be in seventh place. Wait, don't put Lastings Milledge on the Marlins or he'd murder and eat Li'l Billy.