Injuries, subpar offense doom Nats

Injuries, subpar offense doom Nats

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals got off to a 3-0 start in 2008, but it was disaster after that. Washington won only 59 games and ended up having its worst season.

It didn't help that 15 players, including Nick Johnson and Ryan Zimmerman, went on the disabled list for long stretches and the offense was below average. In fact, the Nationals were blanked a Major League-leading 21 times and didn't have a position player reach the 70-RBI plateau.

Now, the Nationals go into the offseason looking for more offense. Whether they are going to spend money to improve the offense remains to be seen, but they are crossing their fingers that a player like Zimmerman can rebound and drive in runs like he did during his first two seasons of his career.

Record: 59-102, fifth place in NL East

Defining moment: The Nationals had it all on March 30 as they christened new Nationals Park. They had a sellout crowd, President George W. Bush threw out the ceremonial first pitch and the Nats topped it off with a 3-2 victory over the Braves. Leave it to Zimmerman, to send the crowd home happy. In the bottom of the ninth inning, he hit Peter Moylan's 1-0 pitch over the left-center-field wall for the victory. It was the fourth walk-off home run of Zimmerman's career.

What went right: As a team, nothing went right. But the Nationals had players who gave them solid performances. Cristian Guzman had the best season of his career, by leading the Nationals in hits, runs scored and batting average.

Jesus Flores was supposed to spend most of the season with Triple-A Columbus, but injuries to Paul Lo Duca and Johnny Estrada forced the team to play Flores, and the latter finished second to Lastings Milledge in RBIs.

Although he missed a month of the season, Milledge ended up being a candidate for the Hank Aaron Award because he was able to drive in runs and steal bases.

John Lannan had 21 quality starts and should have had a better record than 9-15. Lack of run support is the only reason Lannan didn't have a winning record.

NATIONALS TOP SECOND-HALF PERFORMANCES
7/20, WAS 15, ATL 6 -- Nats' big sticks
The Nationals pound out a season-high 15 runs in an easy victory over the Braves.
Highlights: Watch
8/21, WAS 4, PHI 3 -- Kearns snaps skid
The Nationals break a 12-game losing with the help of Austin Kearns' eighth-inning RBI single.
Highlights: Watch
9/1, WAS 7, PHI 4 -- Nats, Zimmerman make it seven
Ryan Zimmerman's two-run fourth-inning homer highlights the Nationals' season-high seventh straight win.
Highlights: Watch
9/3, WAS 9, PHI 7 -- Guzman clears bases
Cristian Guzman's three-run eighth-inning double leads the Nats to a thrilling win over the Phillies.
Highlights: Watch
9/7, WAS 7, ATL 4 -- Dukes' three-run double
Elijah Dukes' go-ahead bases-clearing double in the 14th helped put an end to a 14-inning affair in Atlanta.
Highlights: Watch

What went wrong: Manager Manny Acta didn't think he had to worry about his offense in 2008 because of the moves general manager Jim Bowden made in the offseason.

Bowden acquired outfielders Elijah Dukes and Milledge through trades and signed Lo Duca via free agency. Add Austin Kearns, Johnson and Zimmerman to the mix, and one would think that the Nationals would have an impressive lineup. But the Nats' offense sputtered all season. It ranked near the bottom of almost every offensive category, including batting average and runs scored.

Biggest surprise: Willie Harris found himself playing every day because of injuries to Kearns and Dukes. Harris played hard every game, routinely made great catches, and his bat was a pleasant surprise. He set career highs in home runs and RBIs.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.