MILWAUKEE -- Even as the Nationals have endured injuries to key position players, their offense had continued to roll. However, they have begun to hit a funk recently, culminating in a four-game series against the Brewers where the Nats dropped three out of four games and scored just eight runs total.
"I think some of the guys are a little worn," manager Dusty Baker said after the Nats' 7-2 loss Sunday. "The concentration level is off some. You don't use it as an excuse, but we are in a 21-games-in-20-days. That's a lot this late in the season. You can tell by the guys' focus and concentration isn't the same. We'll get through this streak."
On what amounted to a bullpen day for the Brewers pitching staff Sunday, the Nationals offense was shut out until Ryan Zimmerman's two-run homer in the ninth. The Nats were limited to three hits for the second time in three days after Milwaukee tossed a three-hit shutout Friday.
Washington is playing without a key component of its lineup with Bryce Harper on the disabled list with a hyperextended knee. It weakened the depth of this Nats lineup and has recently left a gap in production. Both Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rendon have slowed down from their hot starts and each posted their lowest OPS of any month this season last month.
"I think there's definitely a correlation," Zimmerman said of losing Harper. "Pretty good player. Not that any of us haven't had experience hitting third, it's not really that, it's more just the depth of the lineup. One of our strengths all year, when everyone's hot at the same time, obviously it's outrageous, but then it's hard for five guys to all not be hitting at the same time."
And while the Nationals made sure to give the Brewers credit for the way they pitched this series, Baker has tried his best to keep his players fresh, using his bench to give off-days and manage nagging injuries.
Despite the recent funk, the Nationals are not panicking. They know eventually they will break out of it.
"It's just one of those things where I feel like a couple of us are kind of going through it at the same time," Zimmerman said. "We'll come out, I don't think there's any worry.
"We've gone through some times where we're scoring 8-9 runs a night and that's great and fun. Then you go through times where it feels like it takes everything you have to score 1-2 runs. You just have to keep grinding through it."
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.