Dusty Baker made some questionable pitching changes that backfired. But that's not why the Washington Nationals find themselves trailing the Chicago Cubs 2-1 in the National League Division Series.
The Nationals' bats have gone cold — again — in a playoff series.
Leadoff hitter Trea Turner is 0-for-12. Bryce Harper, who is hitting second, went 0-for-4 in Game 3 and is 2-for-12 in the series. For his career, he is a .203 hitter in the playoffs. Not exactly what you'd expect from one of the game's best players.
The rest of the lineup isn't much better. Anthony Rendon went 0-for-4 Monday and is now 1-for-10 in the series. Daniel Murphy, who has shined in previous playoff appearances, went 0-for-4 in Game 3 and is now hitting .091 in the NLDS.
The only starters with batting averages above .200: Ryan Zimmerman, who had the Nationals' lone RBI in Game 3, and Michael A. Taylor. Both are hitting .250 for the series.
If the Nationals are going to come back to win this series, they need the bats to wake up. Pitching hasn't been a problem. Yes, two relievers gave up big hits in Monday's game. But the starters in Games 1 and 3 delivered masterful performances. Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer each pitched gems, but received no run support.
The Nationals finished third in the NL with 819 runs scored. Zimmerman and Rendon each had 100 RBI seasons. Harper, who was hurt for most of the second half, had 29 home runs and 87 RBI. On paper, this is a great all-around team. They have the tools to make a deep run.
But they likely won't. The Cubs are a better playoff team. They are better in situations. Anthony Rizzo has delivered clutch hits in both of his team's wins. He's hitting .333 in this series. He's been the best hitter on either team.
Baker has indicated he won't shake things up, but he should. Jayson Werth is hitting .100 in this series and should be relegated to the bench. Use him as a pinch hitter, but use Brian Goodwin or Howie Kendrick as the starting left fielder in Game 4.
Turner is struggling. Move him down in the order. Taylor is capable of leading off. Use him instead. If Turner can turn it around from the No. 7 or No. 8 spot, great. But he's not producing in the playoffs. It's a bit surprising since he was one of the best Nationals last year in the five-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The middle of the lineup has to wake up. Harper has to be better. He's the team's marquee star. He needs to provide the spark. That's exactly what he did in the eighth inning of Game 2. Outside of that two-run home run, however, he's done nothing.
It's easy to pin Monday's loss on Baker. While his decisions should be questioned, the real problem is the lack of offense. That must be addressed, or the Nationals' one-and-done streak will continue.