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Big League Stew

Washington Nationals fire hitting coach Rick Eckstein as offense continues to struggle

Mike Oz
Big League Stew

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Rick Eckstein showing Davey Johnson where the Nats need to hit the ball. (Getty Images)

It was "World Series or Bust" coming into this season for manager Davey Johnson and his Washington Nationals. For hitting coach Rick Eckstein, it's just bust.

Eckstein was fired Monday by the under-performing Nationals — a popular preseason World Series pick. At 48-50, the team sits in third place in the NL East, seven games behind the division-leading Atlanta Braves.

The Nats are 29th in baseball in runs scored, ahead of only the Miami Marlins. Their team batting average is fourth worst, better than Miami, the Houston Astros and the New York Mets, not a good group to call peers. The Nats are also bottom five in on-base percentage, hits and RBIs.

As Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post notes, Johnson had been standing behind Eckstein, who is the older brother of former major leaguer David Eckstein:

Manager Davey Johnson had been a staunch supporter of Eckstein, who had been the Nationals coach since 2009. “If you want to fire the hitting coach, you might as well fire me right with him,” Johnson said in mind-June. Even Saturday night, Johnson called Eckstein “the best hitting instructor” he had ever worked with.

The move is a bit surprising, as general manager Mike Rizzo said as recently as last month that he hadn't considered getting rid of Eckstein.

The Nats — who are 2-8 in their last 10 games and fresh off a three-game sweep by the Dodgers — promoted Rick Schu as their new hitting coach. He's been the organization's minor league hitting coordinator for four seasons.

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