The streak - and the momentum - come to an end

You know how they always say the difference between winning and losing in Major League Baseball is so miniscule?

Let's look back to yesterday evening, if it isn't too painful.

The Nationals were one pitch, one called strike that wasn't, away from sweeping the Giants, winning their sixth game in a row (which would have been their longest winning streak of the season) and heading into this 10-game road trip riding more momentum than they've had all season.

Instead, not.

The called strike that wasn't made a 2-2 count 3-2, a frustrated Rafael Soriano left a fastball middle-up and on a tee for Hector Sanchez, and was looked like their Nats' sixth straight victory turned into a soul-crushing loss.

There goes the momentum.

Again, the Nats didn't get the call on Soriano's 2-2 pitch to Sanchez, but that didn't lose the game for them. Soriano's inability to make better pitches played a much larger role, as did the 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position and 11 runners left on base.

Dan Haren was asked after the game whether he's able to take a positive out of the loss given how well he pitched yet again. Haren allowed just one run over six strong innings, lowering his ERA to an impressive 2.30 in seven starts since he came off the disabled list.

"Not right now," Haren said. "That one hurt, it definitely hurt."

There's no time for moral victories anymore. That loss dropped the Nationals a game in the standings, as the Reds kept on rolling, increasing their lead in the race for the final wild card spot to 9 1/2 games.

Now the Nats head out on the road, starting with three games in Atlanta. The Nats are 3-10 against the Braves this season and were just handed an embarrassing sweep at the hands of their division rivals last week.

It would have been nice to head into Turner Field on a roll, with some confidence build up after a strong week at home. That won't be happening.

"The mood kind of stinks right now in here," Haren said, standing in the clubhouse last night. "But we can't dwell on it too long because if we go to Atlanta feeling sorry for ourselves, then we're gonna get rolled.

"Just gotta come out tomorrow and try to put it past us. Hopefully, we win tomorrow and go from there."

This road trip will probably tell us whether the Nationals have any shot left of making a late run at this thing, pushing past the Reds and grabbing the final wild card spot.

After the three in Atlanta, the Nats have four against the Cubs (who are 3-10 in August) and three against the Royals, who are five games over .500 and fighting for a postseason berth of their own.

The momentum is gone, but a new winning streak is going to have to start quickly if the Nats are going to be playing somewhat meaningful games in September.

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