Tracy's struggles could expand Rizzo's to-do list

The Nationals will try and keep their spirits high, remain optimistic and keep the faith that they can make a run over their final 66 games and reach the postseason.

It sure would be easier to do that, however, if they didn't open the second half with another dud of a performance, one that assisted in dropping them back into third place in the National League East for the first time since June 8 and moved them seven games back of the Braves in the division.

The Nats have a host of problems right now, starting at the top of their lineup with the guy brought in to be their leadoff hitter - Denard Span - and going all the way to the back end of the roster with a couple of guys on their bench.

One of those guys is Chad Tracy, someone who gets very inconsistent playing time but continues to provide very little offensive production.

Tracy went 0-for-4 last night starting in place of Adam LaRoche, leaving six runners on base, four of which were in scoring position. He's now batting .149/.187/.276 on the season and has five extra-base hits in 87 at-bats.

Using Fangraphs' WAR (wins above replacement) calculations, Tracy has a minus-0.8 WAR, 15th-worst in the majors among hitters with at least 80 plate appearances.

This is a guy who was a major factor off the bench for the Nats last season, posting a slash line of .269/.343/.441 and delivering a number of clutch knocks late in games. This season, the numbers just haven't been there.

"I've had some big pinch-hits, but as far as playing when I'm getting the start, I haven't done enough with it," Tracy said last night. "It's very frustrating."

Four of Tracy's five extra-base hits have been in pinch-hitting situations, but he's is still batting .186/.222/.372 as a pinch-hitter, far from ideal numbers.

Making things tougher for Tracy is that he isn't really getting a chance to battle through his struggles with regular at-bats. Yesterday was the first time that Tracy had gotten more than one at-bat in a game since June 25, but the 33-year-old has been in this type of situation many times before.

He knows that he needs to find success despite the irregular playing time, and he knows the lack of at-bats is no excuse for poor production.

"Any time you don't get at-bats strung together it's tough, you start in the hole," Tracy said. "But that's why I'm here. I'm a veteran guy, I've been through it before, so I should be able to make the adjustment and I just haven't done it."

Unfortunately, Tracy's struggles have gotten to the point now that the Nationals might need to look into acquiring a left-handed bat prior to the trade deadline. Tracy is a respected veteran in the clubhouse and a well-liked presence, but with his numbers being where they are, general manager Mike Rizzo might need to go make a move and look to bolster a bench that isn't providing much offense at this point.

Rizzo went and got Scott Hairston to give the Nats some more pop from the right side and a veteran who hits left-handed pitching well. He might now need to look into adding the same type of player, albeit one who does his work in the left-handed batter's box.

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