- The Washington Times
Thursday, May 12, 2022

No team in baseball has been worse at home this season than the Washington Nationals.

No, not even the lowly Cincinnati Reds. 

Overall, the Nationals are one of the worst teams in the majors, but the version of the club that D.C. fans have witnessed in person through the first five weeks of the season is even worse.

Washington fell to the New York Mets 4-1 on Thursday afternoon to bring its record at home to an abysmal 4-13. The theme on Thursday was similar to that of many of the team’s previous losses — too many walks, sloppy play and inconsistent hitting. 

The Nationals entered the game as one of four MLB teams with 10 or more home losses. The other clubs were the Tigers (6-12), Cubs (4-11) and Rangers (5-10). Not exactly the best company. 

Believe it or not, the Reds, who started the season 3-23 and entered Thursday with the league’s worst record at 7-24, are only 5-9 in Cincinnati this spring. 

Included in Washington’s league-worst .235 winning percentage at home is the eight-game losing streak the team endured at Nationals Park in April — during which the offense mustered only 16 runs. 

“It was a rough first stretch, but the road trip at least got our bats going,” Nationals first baseman Josh Bell said of the recent road trip that saw the offense score seven-plus runs in five of nine games. “Now if we can put both sides of the ball together, we should go on a pretty good tear here.”

Nationals manager Dave Martinez said before Thursday’s matinee that he and the coaching staff recognize there’s a problem with the team’s home performance. But what the problem is exactly is unclear, as the Nationals’ skipper said there’s no difference between the team’s mentality on the road (7-9 record) versus at home. 

“We’ve definitely got to play a lot better at home,” Martinez said.

Martinez added that a common thread in the team’s losses is sloppy play, whether it be errors, walks or baserunning mistakes. 

“We harp on it every day,” he said before the game. “We just have to limit our mistakes.”

The good news on Thursday was that the Nationals didn’t commit a single error. Washington ranks third-to-last in the majors with 0.81 errors per game, and after Tuesday’s 4-2 loss that featured two more errors, Martinez called the miscues “lazy mistakes.” 

The bad news, however, was that one day after Martinez praised the team’s pitching staff for not walking a single batter in Wednesday’s 8-3 win, starting pitcher Joan Adon couldn’t continue that trend.

The 23-year-old right-hander walked five of the first 10 batters he faced Thursday — three in the first and two in the second — en route to his sixth loss.

After walking the bases loaded in the first, Mark Canha smacked a two-run single to give New York an early lead. After hitting a batter in the fourth — his sixth free base allowed — Adon allowed an RBI single to Tomas Nido, ending his day at just 3 2/3 innings. 

“I felt a little weird,” Adon said. “I was trying to find myself out there, and I just couldn’t.”

Adon also walked five in his previous start against the Angels and has allowed at least three base on balls in five of his seven starts. His six losses are the most of any pitcher in the majors. 

Somehow, though, Adon’s erratic pitching wasn’t the sloppiest part of the loss. 

After smashing a double in the fourth inning, Juan Soto committed a mind-scratching blunder on the bases, running to third on a grounder hit in front of him and then getting tagged out during a rundown. Bell then tried to advance to third on the same play due to an errant throw but was easily thrown out. 

“Those are two big mistakes,” Martinez said. “We had a chance with some of our big hitters up there to drive in some runs, and we ran into two outs.”

Soto and Bell would be the last two players to reach second base for the Nationals, who tallied only four hits, until Soto’s solo home run with two outs in the ninth. 

“When you make errors like that, it hurt the whole team,” Soto said. “It feels really bad, and for me, I just try to learn from it.”

Mets pitcher Taijuan Walker earned the win after his best start of the season. The 29-year-old former top prospect kept the Nationals’ hot bats — 6.2 runs per game over the past 11 contests — at bay with a mix of pitches, allowing just three hits and walking one in seven shutout innings. 

Canha tacked on another run for the Mets in the ninth with a home run off sidearmer Steve Cishek. Aside from the solo shot, Washington’s bullpen was stingy, as Erasmo Ramirez, Carl Edwards Jr., Kyle Finnegan and Cishek combined to allow just two hits and one run in 5 1/3 innings.

The Nationals (11-22) begin another three-game home series Friday against the Dusty Baker-led Houston Astros. 

• Jacob Calvin Meyer can be reached at jmeyer@washingtontimes.com.

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