Nationals suffer three-game sweep in about 24 hours vs. Brewers

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Nationals suffer three-game sweep in about 24 hours vs. Brewers originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

On Saturday morning, the Washington Nationals sat at 21-25. It was by no means an ideal record, but given that it's around the same time the team turned things around at 19-31 in 2019, the panic button did not need to be smashed just yet. Three games against the Milwaukee Brewers could change things.

Fast forward just over 24 hours and things have changed, but not in a positive way. Much like the rain and cool temperature at Nationals Park, the team's performance was dreary. 

Suffering two losses on Saturday in a doubleheader and then another on Sunday, the Nationals are now 21-28 and coming off a three-game sweep that happened in a blink of an eye. Just last Sunday after a win over the Orioles they were 2 1/2 games out of first place in the NL East. One week later, and they could be 6 1/2 games behind the first-place New York Mets pending their game Sunday night with the second-place Atlanta Braves. 

The theme of the three Brewers losses over the weekend was the same as it has been for the entire 2021 season for Washington. Primarily, a lack of consistency on offense once again reared its ugly head.

The Nationals did face some strong pitching, with Freddy Peralta and Brandon Woodruff towing the rubber on Saturday and Sunday respectively. Peralta pitched seven innings of one-run ball and Woodruff allowed just two hits and struck out 10 in seven innings to cap off the sweep. The other game on Saturday featured a lot of bullpen arms from the Brewers, a talented group in its own right.

Still, Washington's offense has struggled against all types of pitching through its first 49 games and three runs in 23 innings isn't a surprise given the body of work for the unit in 2021. That type of production is rarely going to get the job done.

Even while getting six innings of two-run ball from Max Scherzer, the Nationals were unable to do anything to prevent that quality start from turning into a loss. That happened to Scherzer on Tuesday against the Cincinnati Reds, too - a 2-1 loss. 

There is talent in the lineup, but stringing together a few good games has been a major challenge. The final six games of a nine-game homestand featured a grand total of nine runs for Washington with two shutouts in their past four games. Five of those nine runs came on Wednesday against the Reds. It's been a brutal stretch at the plate. 

The bullpen also had another slip-up over the weekend, with five runs surrendered in the final two innings in Game 2 of the Milwaukee doubleheader Saturday took a 2-1 lead to a 6-2 loss. 

The weekend sent Washington to a new low, with the team now at a season-high seven games under .500. Yet, it was a similar story to what has been happening since Opening Day. A lack of offense and some untimely struggles on the mound have grounded the team.

The 2019 comeback story has shown that late May isn't the end-all for a team. A turnaround can still happen. However, looking at the weaknesses of the Nationals roster in 2021, there is a lot of work to be done and fast.

The team immediately flew to Atlanta to begin a four-game series with the Braves on Memorial Day and then three games at the third-place Philadelphia Phillies and back south for a two-game set at the AL East-leading Tampa Bay Rays. That nine-game trip suddenly looms crucial. 

Former reliever Sean Doolittle, now with the Reds, noted this week that the 2019 team essentially had two different versions of itself. This year's group will need the same to keep itself in contention in the division and the NL wild card race.