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Death by walks

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Manny Acta is a patient man, as we all know. He can deal with plenty of things without losing his cool. But if you saw the Nationals manager after tonight’s 9-4 loss to the Cardinals, you had to wonder whether he had just about reached his breaking point.

Frustrated? No, Acta refuses to use that word. Exasperated? That probably best describes the third-year manager as he talked about the 11 walks his pitching staff issued during an ugly loss in which a 4-4 game in the ninth became a 9-4 loss in a matter of minutes.

“They’re just walking themselves into trouble, over and over and over and over and over,” Acta said. “Walking guys after 0-2 counts. Walking guys in the bottom of the order. I don’t know why. … You shouldn’t be afraid. You’re pitching for a last-place team in a half-empty stadium. What can be intimidating right now?”

Fair points, all of them. But if you’re a member of the Nationals pitching staff — especially the bullpen — right now, you’re performing like you’re scared out of your minds.

Check out tonight’s pitching lines…

Daniel Cabrera: 6 ip, 4 h, 3 r, 5 bb, 2 k, 4 wp, 1 hr

Mike Hinckley: 1/3 ip, 0 h, 1 r, 1 bb, 0 k

Logan Kensing: 2/3 ip, 1 h, 0 r, 1 bb, 0 k

Kip Wells: 1 ip, 0 h, 0 r, 2 bb, 0 k

Julian Tavarez: 1/3 ip, 2 h, 5 r (2 er), 2 bb, 0 k, 1 hbp

Joel Hanrahan: 2/3 ip, 1 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 0 k, 1 balk

To recap, each one of Washington’s pitchers walked at least one batter, except for Hanrahan (who did have the distinction of balking in a run before he ever threw a pitch). How do you explain that?

“For some reason they don’t want to throw the ball over the plate,” pitching coach Randy St. Claire said. “Whether it’s being too fine, whether it’s not being aggressive enough, only they can answer those questions. But you can’t put guys on base.”

Acta was asked what he and his staff can possibly do next to try to fix this pandemic.

“Plan Z maybe?” Acta said. “You just have to keep throwing them out there, continue to move them around until something clicks.”

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Mark Zuckerman

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