The Washington Nationals were the major leagues’ worst team last year, and a week into this season it doesn’t look like much has changed.
The defending World Series champions appear to be rounding back into form, too.
The Philadelphia Phillies will look for a third straight win on Monday afternoon in Washington’s home opener, with the reeling Nationals still looking for their first victory of the season.
After a 102-loss season that was the franchise’s worst in 32 years, the Nationals (0-6) haven’t displayed any improvement to start the 2009 campaign, with their woeful pitching staff allowing 7.5 runs per game in series sweeps at Florida and Atlanta.
They remain the majors’ only winless team after Sunday’s 8-5 loss to the Braves, and they’re off to the franchise’s worst start since the Montreal Expos lost seven straight to begin the 1998 season.
“I don’t have a quick fix,” Washington first baseman Adam Dunn said. “Guys know what they need to do, and I think it’s being addressed.
“We’re playing hard. We’re just not doing the little things that we need to do. We’re leaving so many runners on. You can’t do that and be successful.”
The Nationals have stranded 43 runners in their last three games, but the bigger concern remains their pitching.
Daniel Cabrera (0-1, 7.50 ERA) will make his second start with his new team after a rocky debut, as he gave up five runs in six innings of a 6-4 loss to Florida on Wednesday. He’s part of a starting rotation that is 0-5 with a 10.73 ERA.
“Right now we’re in a situation where we have to play almost perfect baseball,” Washington manager Manny Acta said.
That could be difficult against the Phillies’ warming bats, which scored a combined one run while Philadelphia (3-3) lost its first two games but has totaled 30 while the team has won three of its last four.
The Phillies fell behind 4-0 in the first inning at Colorado on Sunday, but Chase Utley hit a two-run home run in the eighth and Matt Stairs equaled the feat with a pinch-hit shot in the ninth to give them a 7-5 win.
“That’s a tough job to do, and he does it pretty good,” Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said. “Hitting a pinch-hit home run is pretty hard, especially when they know what kind of hitter he is.”
The offense will try to support Jamie Moyer better than it did in the 46-year-old’s season debut, when he gave up four runs in five innings - all of the scoring in the Phillies’ 4-0 loss to the Braves on Tuesday.
Perhaps the left-hander will fare better against the Nationals. He’s 6-0 with a 2.08 ERA in 10 starts against Washington since 2004, including wins in both of his starts at Nationals Park last season.
The Nationals opened their ballpark with a victory last season, but then lost their next five at home. They also closed their season by losing six of their last seven there, and the Phillies went 6-3 in the nation’s capital.