Just another frustrating loss; Nats blow 3-run lead with a bevy of mistakes.

The Nationals had a 3-run lead and watched that lead evaporate and turn into a 1-run deficit, and that 1-run difference stood up for the Dodgers to snatch this game from the Nats in the 3-game finale. The Nationals had opportunities in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings and in fact had runners on 2nd base and 1st base in the 9th inning with no outs but stranded them en route to a 1-for-10 with RISP. 

We learned later that reliever Ryan Madson might not have been available which is why Brandon Kintzler was not used in the 6th inning. We now await what we feared on Wednesday that Madson’s over-use in that game could have injured Ryan Madson or at the very least severely fatigued him. Madson, who has battled injuries for much of his career including Tommy John surgery, has now not pitched in four straight days.

For the Nationals’ starter, Jeremy Hellickson, he was almost unhittable (one-hitter) until the line-up turned over at the 5 1/3 inning mark and Chris Taylor would face him for the 3rd time in the game. Like clockwork, Taylor doubled to start a rally.  It unraveled quickly as Corey Seager received a 4-pitch walk and then Yasmani Grandal doubled past a diving Ryan Zimmerman to drive in both Taylor and Seager. Hellickson was pulled for Sammy Solis who allowed the tying run to cross the plate before Trevor Gott closed out the 6th inning. Gott stayed in for the next inning and he unfortunately gave up the go-ahead run in the 7th inning and took the loss.

Again, the use of the bullpen seems to be the cascading effect of Ryan Madson not being available as Brandon Kintzler pitched the 8th inning instead of earlier with the game on the line.

All of this comes on a night when Michael Taylor had a true breakout game going 3-for-3 with a home run and two runs scored while causing havoc on the basepaths. In fact, MAT boosted his batting average to .224 and hopefully he said goodbye for good to Mr. Mendoza who was like a ball and chain of offensive ineptitude attached to him for the first 21 games of the season.

For the non-pitchers, only Ryan Zimmerman (.178) and Matt Reynolds (.083) remain under Mendoza while DFA’d catcher Miguel Montero will be permanently cemented at the dreaded .000 for his 0-for-11 season as a batter.

In a game where strategy matters and mistakes get magnified, Andrew Stevenson gets put under the microscope. In the 7th inning, Wilmer Difo led-off with a single. Stevenson pulled a pitch into right field for a single and Difo scampered to 3rd base while Stevenson hesitated around first base and then was thrown out at 2nd base. Did first base coach Tim Bogar send Stevenson or did he make this mistake on his own? Instead of men on the corners with no-outs, it turned the situation around and nobody could score Wilmer Difo who was stranded on 3rd base. Stevenson was the batter who would be in position to make a difference in the 9th inning with men on 2nd base and 1st base and no outs against closer Kenley Jansen. Instead of bunting on the first pitch, Stevenson swung and missed. On the second pitch he squared to bunt and did not execute and then struck out on the 3rd pitch.

Again, it is a team game, and none of the other batters could push ahead runs in the 7th, 8th or 9th innings with runner(s) in scoring position. The blame game gets pinned on different players and some will look at Andrew Stevenson but he was able to single and push Difo to 3rd base in the 7th inning and both Trea Turner and Howie Kendrick struck out. With Turner at the plate, all it would have taken was a productive out, not even a hit, to score the speedy Difo. In the 1-to-4 spots in this batting order, they combined for a 3-for-18 night and no RBIs while Turner and Kendrick stranded 3 runners each. Turner’s strikeout was on a 2-2 pitch that was outside by inches. Once again poor umpiring played a part in the outcome.

“It was definitely a ball,” Trea Turner said about that 7th inning strikeout. “I just don’t like how it always happens in a big at-bat. It’s never, I get you’re going to miss calls and whatever it is, it is, but it always happens when it’s a one-run ballgame, someone’s on third base, it’s never you’re up by 10, it doesn’t happen. So, I don’t think that can happen in at-bats like that and it seems to keep happening.”

We also cannot give a pass to Bryce Harper who was also involved in some strange plays and one moment of embarrassment seen on national TV during this ESPN Game of the Week. With a man on 2nd base, Harper hit a groundball into the shift. The ball was fielded on the outfield grass and Harper was seen with his head down and not running. The ball was poorly thrown to the 1st baseman who had to come off of the base and lunge at the ball but still had time to retreat to the base for the put-out. ESPN showed the replay of Harper — head down and jogging. Maybe Harper deserves a pass after he fouled a ball off of his foot but he sure showed he could sprint after he saw the errant throw. Video here.

Harper would also be involved in a defensive play with Austin Barnes on first base and testing Harper’s arm on a single. Harper did sprint to the groundball single but then you could see on replay he slowed up in his last 3 steps to field the ball and Barnes took 3rd base and eventually scored the game winner on a sacrifice fly.  Did Harper slow up to field that groundball thinking Barnes was not going to run on him or did he slow up to be sure he was going to field the ball?

Baseball is cruel at times and add this loss to Wednesday’s loss in New York for the two that got away with losses pegged on the bullpen.

The Nationals drop to 9-and-11 on the season and will fly-out to San Francisco after the game.

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