The offensively-challenged Washington Nationals have lost 8 of 11 and if the rest of the NL East weren’t so damned erratic, it is fair to say they’d be out of contention, never mind clinging to the divisional lead. From the Washington Post’s Barry Svlurga.

It might now be time for some changes, though look down the bench, and there are precious few palatable choices. Yet after the Washington Nationals lost for the eighth time in 11 games Sunday — a 5-3 decision to the Milwaukee Brewers in which they were baffled by former teammate Tomo Ohka — Manager Frank Robinson understood that, offensively, his team is in a deep funk, and it might finally be time to bench shortstop Cristian Guzman (above).

Guzman, signed to a four-year, $16.8 million deal in the offseason, has helped solidify the Nationals defensively, but has been the worst offensive regular in the majors. Sunday, Guzman went 0 for 2, flying out and grounding into a double play before he was lifted for a pinch hitter. He is 0 for 12 in four games since returning from a strained hamstring, and his average is down to .192, the lowest of any major league regular

The offensive problems that caused the Nationals to lose three of four to the middling Brewers aren’t Guzman’s alone. Indeed, they have filtered through the lineup. Sunday’s five-hit performance means the team is hitting .209 since the all-star break, and several individual players are slumping. Even the first four hitters in the Nationals’ lineup Sunday — Brad Wilkerson, Jose Vidro, Jose Guillen and Preston Wilson — finished the Milwaukee series 14 for 64, just a .219 average.

Guzman is 2 for his last 35. Entering Sunday’s game, he was the only major league regular hitting below .215. There is no way to spin the numbers to make them look better. His on-base percentage (.229) is the worst in baseball. His slugging percentage (.278) is the worst in the National League. He is hitting .142 with runners on base, .100 with runners in scoring position.

How would he react if he was benched?

“Everybody knows I’m an everyday player,” Guzman said. “I know I’m not a bench player.”