Learning from a tough loss in July can pay deeper dividends in September

Losing is never easy.

Blowing a 6-0 lead is up there as most upsetting.

But falling 7-6 at Miami Monday is actually a good thing for a team that has seen a lot go well in the month of July.

It seemed like Rafael Soriano was due. Recently, a few of his best pitches have been up in the zone. He actually lives on the edge in that regard, getting guys to chase at some of those tantalizing offers.

Leading 6-3 heading into the bottom of the ninth, he had not allowed a run in 11 straight innings against the Marlins.

soriano-back-white.jpgSoriano walked Casey McGehee to begin the frame, which is how all nightmarish endings begin.

Garrett Jones doubled on a two-seam fastball.

Marcell Ozuna swung at a slider and singled, a run scored and it was 6-4 Nationals.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia battled through five fastballs and then smacked the first slider he saw for a sac fly, a run scored and the Nationals’ lead was down to 6-5 with one out.

A wild pitch got runners to second and third.

Adeiny Hechavarria then engaged in a big battle with Soriano. Facing 11 pitches, he tripled on a slider and the Marlins tied the game 6-6.

Blown save for Soriano and then came the first coaching visit to the mound.

Pinch-hitter Donovan Solano was hit by pitch (two-seam fastball).

Soriano was having location issues and continually fell behind in counts.

Another coaching visit to the mound. Soriano was pulled.

Left-hander Jerry Blevins got Christian Yelich to go for a curveball outside and struck him out. Two outs.

Against the right-handed hitting Jeff Baker though, it was a different result. Baker went after the 85 mph changeup on his first offering, saw it well, lined it for a clean base hit to Bryce Harper and the Marlins won, completing the stunning comeback 7-6.

The game sped up in the frantic ninth inning. Should manager Matt Williams have gone to his bullpen for a righty-righty matchup? He said afterward that Tyler Clippard wasn’t available. How about Aaron Barrett or Craig Stammen?

Easy to second-guess after a heartbreaking loss.

With the Nationals up 6-2 in the eighth inning, there was Harper at third base. On a grounder to shortstop, he might have been able to score. The Nationals did not add that run there, and the Marlins got one back in the last of the eighth.

In the ninth, one thing that the Nationals could have done is attempt to slow down the game at that point. Another visit to the mound could have given all parties a chance to think.

It is enticing to just keep going with Blevins after he got the strikeout. But going with the right-handed matchup might have extended the game. That is all you’re trying to do in that moment. The Nationals tried to do that Monday night. It just didn’t work out.

Better for this to happen in July than in October. Learning from this loss could pay dividends later. It is a learning experience for the players and coaches alike.

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