It is difficult to have a mental mistake keep an inning alive with two outs in a tie ballgame.
It hurts more when your team has scored four unanswered runs to tie a game at 4-4 against a team that was reeling in a seven-game losing streak.
But to see another mental mistake later in the inning that scored the go-ahead run and opened the door to another run-scoring single?
It is too much to handle.
The Nationals fell Sunday in Kansas City to the Royals, 6-4. The game was tied heading to the bottom of the eighth until the Nats had two defensive blunders, leading to the eventual loss. The Royals’ Billy Butler reached first when Craig Stammen failed to cover first, and two batters later, Ryan Zimmerman did not cover third for the force out, which would have ended the inning.
Stammen has to get over to first base and cannot assume that Adam LaRoche is going to make every play on a hot shot to the bag.
Ryan Zimmerman cannot be caught off the bag at third base with the bases loaded and a ball hit near him at shortstop.
Manager Davey Johnson said maybe the play for Ian Desmond was to go to second. However, the ball was bobbled toward third, and Desmond believed he had a shot to get the runner at third. Zimmerman was caught a bit off-guard, and his diving tag was not in time.
In the span of two critical plays with two outs in the bottom of the eighth of a tie ballgame, the Nationals had two big opportunities to get out of the trouble.
Neither play was ruled an error. But it was two plays where, if every defender is on the same page, the play is made and the out is recorded.
It’s two plays that are placed under a microscope, and it doesn’t take away from the Nationals’ four-run comeback. But it is a series of plays in games just like Sunday’s heartbreaking loss that everyone will remember if the team is unable to surge to the postseason in the final 32 games of the season.