Nats had plenty of chances and squandered what the game gave them

A different type of walk off; Photo by Marlene Koenig for TalkNats

In this 3-to-0 loss, the Nationals had their chances. It started in the first inning with runners on the corners and one-out with Bryce Harper batting, and he tapped into an inning ending doubleplay and it kind of ended like the game started with a golden opportunity to score. With bases loaded and a chance to walk-off with Mark Reynolds at-bat, the strike zone widened and he struck-out. That really wasn’t the exclamation point on the game — it was a footnote on an offense that now has been shutout four times in nine games and the focus goes back to what went wrong like it has all season on opportunities not taken and who is not doing their job.

It’s a team loss, but let’s get real, it has been going back to the #3 or #4 spots in the batting order all season where a combined 157 runners stranded on-base in 368 at-bats by just two batters through 72 games: Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper. Let that marinate for a second when you take 157 stranded runners and divide that by 72 games and the number is over 2 per game. In the first inning today, Harper would have scored a run with a productive out. It doesn’t always take a hit. Sometimes it takes just taking what the game gives you like taking a walk when your team needs baserunners and just playing unselfish baseball.

Sure, Harper had 5 runners left-on-base tonight, and he put the ball in play, but his greatest sin was not taking a walk in a 3-1 count to lead-off in the 9th inning. He can’t hit a 4-run home run leading off the inning, and yet Harper swung for the fences on a ball in the dirt to run the count to 3-2 instead of taking the walk. On the next pitch Harper laced a liner right to the first baseman for the 1st out of the inning. The Nats would then load the bases with 2-outs only to come up short in the end — but what if Harper takes the walk and scores and it’s a 3-1 game and Reynolds still strikes out. Well, then there would have been just 2 outs and you send Adam Eaton to the plate with a chance to do something. The line was moving but stalled.

It takes a team. Gio Gonzalez should be able to give up 2-runs in a start and feel like his offense could pick him up but the Nats have been playing for 2 weeks where the slightest mistake by the pitchers can cost you with an offense that is in feast or famine mode.

Once again Michael A. Taylor came off of the bench and got on-base as a pinch-hitter. He came in the 9th inning and singled after Harper refused to take a walk. Trea Turner singled to put on two runners and Brian Goodwin worked a pinch-hit walk to load the bases in the 9th.

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