Monday's 3-2 setback to the Cardinals was the Nationals' second straight loss and seventh in their last 10 games. But shortstop Ian Desmond saw something in the tough defeat, which he believes the team can use to build on for their next game.
"We played a much better game," Desmond said. "This was one of our better games of the year. We played good. That one ball just drops in. We are close. That was a good sign."
Desmond was up in a critical situation with men on second and third base and two outs in the bottom of the eighth. The Cards led 3-2. Desmond struck out on four pitches against Cardinals reliever Trevor Rosenthal, who hit 98 mph with a four-seam fastball that produced a knee-buckling called third strike.
Desmond said he didn't shy away from the moment.
"That is the situation I want to be in," Desmond said. "A tying run on second and the game on the line. I will take me in that situation any day of the week. He just got me out today. Hopefully, I will get that opportunity again."
Earlier in the seventh, the Nationals had two men on and two outs, and pinch-hitter Chad Tracy's bloop into mid-center was tracked down by the speedy John Jay to end the threat.
"It is just a matter of time before those start falling in for us," Desmond said. "Today was a huge step in the right direction. I think we have got some optimism going in to tomorrow. I thought everyone across the board played a good game today, they just beat us."
Desmond said the positive feeling comes from the confidence this team built up over the past couple of seasons and a belief that, even in a loss, they can build.
"It is a long season," Desmond said. "As an outsider looking in, you see 98 wins last year and you expect to see the same again this year. But in order to win 98 games, you got to lose a bunch of games too. (It) doesn't matter if we lose them in April or September, October, whatever. Just got to keep on playing, it will turn around for us."
One bright spot for the Nationals was the game-tying hit by rookie Anthony Rendon. In the fourth, down 2-1, Rendon smacked an opposite field RBI double to even the contest.
"I just try to keep my hands inside the ball," Rendon said. "That is how I grew up hitting. That was what I was taught doing. That just happened to be the one I got."
Rendon said he got to spend some time with his family after the game to savor his first major league hit and RBI. He gave the ball to his mother.
"It is the one thing you are going to cherish for the rest of your life," Rendon said. "You don't get another one. The second one doesn't count as much as the first one. It is just a memory in the back of your head."
Rendon also said that the ovation he got from the 27,263 fans at Nationals Park while being introduced prior to his first at-bat was an unforgettable moment.
"It was pretty amazing," Rendon said. "We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for them. It was pretty cool to have that many people standing for you."