WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Manny Acta decided to hold a team meeting before Thursday's game against the Pirates, giving his team a pep talk about playing the game the right way.
Entering Thursday's action, the Nationals were on a seven-game losing streak and had an 11-28 record. The reason for the disappointing record is because they have an unproductive bullpen and are playing less than stellar defense. The bullpen is 1-15 with a 6.65 ERA, while the Nationals also lead the Major Leagues in errors.
"When you try to motivate people, it's really tough to have 40 meetings in one or two days, but I felt that having all of [the players] together would be quicker and easier," Acta said. "I want them to make sure that they knew that just a week ago on the West Coast, we were a better team than we are right now.
"I told them the game is not going to be suspended today. We have to play it and everything can change today. It was more than a group thing and pump up the guys that are down right now in our bullpen. We let them know it's a long season and they have plenty of time to get it going. We are not going to keep the starters in there for nine innings, regardless. They are still going to get a chance to pitch."
One reliever who is down right now is closer Joel Hanrahan. He has only three saves with a 6.87 ERA. Hanrahan, who blew a game against the Pirates on Wednesday, said the meeting was needed and he felt better after Acta's motivational speech.
"It was real good. He wasn't chewing us out," Hanrahan said. "He said, 'Just go out there and play hard.' He didn't say that we stink or anything. He just said, 'Get back to doing what we need to do.'"
Acta wasn't the only one who spoke during the meeting. Bench coach Jim Riggleman and reliever Ron Villone said their piece. Like Acta, Riggleman and Villone told them to put the past behind them and move forward.
"I don't know if meetings are all about messages sometimes. It's about bringing us together," Villone said. "In general, that's pretty much what we need to do around here. At certain times, things need to be spoken. Somebody has to say it. I think we are pretty much on the same page. Now we have to do get it done."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.