Bullpen puts up a rare stinker, but Nats find a positive in loss

The Nationals are certainly frustrated with how today’s game finished and the fact that they cost Jordan Zimmermann another win.

But two guys in the Nats clubhouse feel that today’s loss might actually benefit the team in the long-run.

“I look at it as good timing,” Tyler Clippard said. “You know, I think you don’t ever want to get too comfortable or too confident out there, so this is a little, maybe, check for ourselves. We can kind of regroup and move forward with a new beginning in the second half.”

“Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise,” said Ian Desmond. “It’ll get us to come back after the break and still be hungry. Kind of good to go out on a little bit of a sour note. ... Everything happens for a reason in this game. The ball never lies. This is a lesson. Hopefully, we can come back (after the break) and bounce back against the Marlins in a big division series.”

The Nats will try and take some positives out of today’s 4-3 loss to the Rockies, but they know that they let one slip through their fingers.

Up 3-1 going into the eighth inning, Davey Johnson was prepared to turn things over to Sean Burnett and Clippard, his dominant late-inning duo. The two relievers entered today’s game with a combined 1.58 ERA and had teamed up to close out countless games so far this season.

Today was an exception. Burnett failed to record an out and was charged with two runs in the eighth, tying the game at 3-3. This was just his second time allowing a run in his last 13 appearances.

“It just unfortunately happened before the break, so it’s one we’ll have to sleep on for a couple nights,” Burnett said. “The bullpen and pitching staff has been so good all year. To have it slip up there in the last two innings before the break kind of stinks. But you can’t let a couple innings set us back for what we’ve done the last two months. Give us time to relax, take some time off and come out strong here in a couple days.”

Burnett gave up a leadoff homer to Eric Young Jr., then allowed back-to-back singles to put runners at the corners. He was replaced by Michael Gonzalez, who allowed Dexter Fowler to score from third on a wild pitch. That run was charged to Burnett.

“Just wasn’t my day,” Burnett said. “I threw I think it was a sinker to the guy, Young, and it just cut. I think I pulled it middle in and he didn’t miss it. Then I got a couple ground balls and they just happened to find a hole. Just one of those things it didn’t go my way today.”

Clippard then came on for the ninth, and after giving up a leadoff double to Jordan Pacheco and a sacrifice bunt, Clippard let Pacheco come home on a wild pitch.

The 27-year-old said he couldn’t actually remember the last wild pitch he’d thrown. The magical Internet tells me that his last wild pitch came on July 7, 2011 against, ironically enough, the Rockies.

“Any time it doesn’t go your way, it’s frustrating, but you know, we can’t really hang our heads,” Clippard said. “We’ve been playing well as a team, and you know, this one was a frustrating win - this is a win that we get. But we didn’t get it today, and we’ve got the All-Star break here to regroup and move forward for a great second half.”

Desmond hit his 17th home run of the season in the fourth inning, giving the Nats the lead at the time. They were only able to add one more run, which Desmond lamented after the game. The Nationals’ shortstop was pleased with the way the hitters rallied in the bottom of the ninth, however, getting runners to second and third before Jesus Flores struck out to end the game.

“We put ourselves in position to win the ballgame,” Desmond said. “I know that they were on the edge of their seat there in the dugout. And that’s the kind of baseball that you want to play. You want to have the other team on the ropes and today we just didn’t finish them off. But kudos to us for getting into that position.

“(Roger) Bernadina had two freakin’ awesome at-bats today. The bunt base hit, a huge stolen base and then has a good at-bat right there against (Rafael) Betancourt and then steals the base. That’s the kind of things that help you win and hopefully we can continue to do those after the break.”

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