Eckstein looking for better approach from hitters

Eckstein looking for better approach from hitters

Eckstein looking for better approach from hitters
PITTSBURGH -- Hitting coach Rick Eckstein acknowledged that it didn't sit well with him that the Nationals couldn't take advantage of scoring opportunities in a 4-2 loss to the Pirates at PNC Park on Wednesday night.

It was a game in which the Nationals left 10 runners on base and struck out 11 times, all swinging. The last two innings were the most frustrating to watch.

With the Nationals down, 3-2, they had the bases loaded with one out, but both Danny Espinosa and Rick Ankiel struck out to end the threat.

Then down by two runs an inning later, Washington threatened again, this time against closer Joel Hanrahan. The Nationals had runners on second and third and one out, but Bryce Harper popped up to Clint Barmes at short and Ryan Zimmerman struck out to end the game.

"It never sits well when you don't take advantage of those opportunities," Eckstein said. "It's what it is. It's time to look forward."

It seems simple, what the Nationals have to do to get their offense back on track.

"You just have to get a pitch to hit and don't miss your pitch," Eckstein said. "Fouling it straight back into the screen or swinging through it doesn't get it done."

The Nationals have preached to their players about being aggressive at the plate, but Eckstein would like to see the players shorten up on their swing.

"To be aggressive, if a guy is throwing the ball to the back screen, you definitely want to make him throw it over the plate before you start honoring that," Eckstein said. "But overall, those are lessons you have to learn. Sometimes you have to go through it to learn them, to understand the situation. They are fighting. They are putting it all out there. It's just putting it together every day. It has been our challenge."

The offense has been a challenge all season. Entering Thursday's action against the Pirates, the Nationals are 24th in the Major Leagues with a .236 batting average. They also have a .310 on-base percentage.