It doesn’t make the defeat any easier to stomach, but while the Nationals have had losses this season where the bats were nearly completely silent, at least they stuck the ball well tonight. That was something that Davey Johnson pointed out as a minor glimmer on a relatively dark night for the home team at Nats Park.
“That’s been happening a lot lately,” Scott Hairston said. “All we can do is square it up, and it seems like that’s been a pattern. A lot of lineouts and not too many bloopers. I can’t recall one. It’s unfortunate that’s the way the game is sometimes and sometimes teams get those, sometimes they don’t and we’ve been on the lighter side of that.”
That said, those excuses mean nothing when the losses keep piling up.
“It doesn’t really matter if you hit it hard or soft,” Ian Desmond said. “No one cares about that. You care about what the score is, and they scored more than we did. The series isn’t over. Still got two more games, and I like the guys we put out there.”
Hairston had a nice night offensively tonight, going 2-for-3 with two doubles and a walk. But it’s the ninth-inning pop-up behind home plate with the tying run at third base and one out that will eat at him tonight.
“Yeah it’s always tough,” Hairston said. “I think when you’re in that position to help the team win and you don’t do it, it’s somewhat of a disappointment and we all feel the same way. You have to seize the opportunity and more so than not, realistically, it doesn’t happen to your liking, getting the job done. But I don’t know. Like I said, you have to move on.”
Hairston worked the count to 2-0 against Braves reliever Jordan Walden, filling in for Craig Kimbrel tonight after Kimbrel had worked in three straight games, but he popped up a fastball that catcher Brian McCann reeled in just before he reached the screen.
“I think it was low for my liking, but in that situation you’ve got to be aggressive,” Hairston said. “The guy’s throwing 97, it’s not that easy to lay off of it. Now, it’s easier to lay off of it if it’s high. The ball’s coming in shin-high, usually that’s a pitch you should be aggressive on.”
Tyler Clippard got the loss tonight, dropping his record to 6-2 on the season. He served up a 3-2 meatball of a changeup to Justin Upton leading off the eighth, and Upton crushed it out to left for what turned out to be the game-winning run.
“The timing of it couldn’t be worse, you know? It’s amazing. It’s frustrating. ... Stras (Stephen Strasburg) did a great job tonight,” Clippard said. “We swung the bats well. We hit the ball hard a couple times; guys caught it. Stuff like that. It’s frustrating.”
Denard Span was called upon to try and bunt for a base hit with Anthony Rendon on first and no outs in the ninth. That was the signal he received from the dugout. But because the corner infielders were charging towards home plate anticipating a bunt, Span says the chances of a bunt actually turning into a hit there weren’t great.
“It was one of those things where, when he gave (the sign) to me, it was kind of tough, because you know it’s a bunt situation and both sides are crashing,” Span said. “So, I mean, in hindsight, I’m like, ‘Why would he give me the base-hit bunt?’ It’s not surprising anybody. Only thing I can think of is a base-hit bunt, you show a little later. Sac bunt, you show earlier, so you’re coming in a lot sooner. That’s the only logic I could get out of it. I wasn’t expecting to get a hit, because they already were way in on the grass. But it worked out.”
This was the Nats’ 15th one-run loss of the season, another game they could’ve pulled out but didn’t.
“Get runners out there, you’ve got to get them in,” Desmond said. “That’s the name of the game. You’ve got to score more than they do, and we didn’t score very many tonight.”