Under normal circumstances, the Nationals would be happy winning two of three in a series with the first-place Braves.
These are not normal circumstances.
The Nats need wins. Lots of them. And even though they took the series with Atlanta by sweeping yesterday’s doubleheader, they needed a win tonight as well. They didn’t get it, falling to the Braves 5-2.
“It’s just not enough. We just can’t afford to lose,” manager Davey Johnson said. “It’s that simple. We just need to get back at it tomorrow.”
A loss certainly feels like more than just one tally in the loss column at this point, if that makes any sense. One defeat seems to feel like 10, given where the Nats are in the standings - currently five games back of the Reds with 10 games left on the schedule.
“It’s over. We’ve just got to start another win streak. It’s that simple,” Johnson said. “We didn’t get much going. We had the bases loaded, right guys up, didn’t get much. Walked in a run, sac fly and that was it.”
The Nats had a great opportunity in the fifth, and while they got two runs across, like Johnson said, they could’ve had more. They loaded the bases with one out, but even with the heart of their order up, they managed just Jayson Werth’s controversial RBI walk and Bryce Harper’s sac fly.
Ross Ohlendorf couldn’t do much with that 2-0 lead, allowing three runs in the sixth on a solo homer by Dan Uggla and a two-run shot by Justin Upton.
“Well, he just hung a breaking ball, hung it big time,” Johnson said of Ohlendorf’s pitch to Upton. “Inside part of the plate and up. That was it. He was cruising. Low pitch-count. But that can happen, you make a bad pitch and boom.
“He was still throwing pretty good, still throwing 93, 94, but he just didn’t locate the pitch to Upton. Got the ball up. Cool night, still feeling pretty good. Even when he came in, I told him that was it, he was kind of questioning me. So I don’t think it was one of those cases where he ran completely out of gas.”
Both teams seemed to have issues with calls made by home plate umpire CB Bucknor tonight. The ball four call to Werth with the bases loaded was argued by both Braves starter Alex Wood and manager Fredi Gonzalez, and both men were eventually ejected.
“That’s CB. He’s got a little different strike zone,” Johnson said.
Later, Bucknor issued warnings to both benches after Braves righty Anthony Varvaro hit Anthony Rendon above the left hip.
“I questioned him on it,” Johnson said. “I said, ‘They have a one-run lead. They’re not gonna hit anybody.’ And his reply was there was a warning from the league office that anything close. Well, that’s not close. You’re not gonna hit my eighth-hole hitter in that situation.”