The little things matter when Nats play Braves

I bet online dictionaries saw a pretty good spike in web traffic among D.C., Maryland and Virginia residents yesterday.

There must have been quite a few searches for the word "lodged" after Justin Upton failed to make a play on the ball that ended up under the padding of the left field wall.

The point made by manager Matt Williams after the game seemingly is a valid one - why, if the ball was lodged under the padding, was it so easy for Upton to then pick it up and throw it back into the infield?

Reasonable question, the way I see it.

The Nationals made three outs on the bases yesterday - Bryce Harper was thrown out trying to steal second, Ian Desmond was thrown out trying to steal third and Adam LaRoche was thrown out at home trying to score on a double to left.

We've talked countless times over the last seven weeks about Williams wanting his team to be aggressive on the bases in order to put pressure on the opponents. With that mantra, there will be days like yesterday, where that aggression backfires. Those plays won't always go the Nats' way.

That's why Williams wasn't too frustrated with Harper getting picked off, Desmond's ill-fated attempt to swipe third or third base coach Bobby Henley sending LaRoche home on Ryan Zimmerman's double to left. The key, the Nats said afterward, is trying to balance being aggressive with being smart.

Tyler Clippard came into a 1-1 game in the eighth inning, looking to keep the score knotted up. He immediately issued a five-pitch leadoff walk to Jason Heyward, which came back to haunt him when Heyward moved to third on Freddie Freeman's single and then came in to score on Chris Johnson's sac fly.

"It's Relieving 101," Clippard said. "You don't walk the leadoff guy, especially during a tie ballgame like that. That's what ultimately got me."

The problem with the questionable play involving Upton in left field, the three Nats baserunners being thrown out and the Clippard walk is that these plays in and of themselves don't often decide games. But the little things matter when the Nationals and Braves get together.

Thirteen of the 19 games these two teams played last season were decided by two runs or fewer. Seven of the 19 were decided by just one run.

The Nats and Braves were locked in another tight game yesterday afternoon, but the Nats made a few mistakes and got some bad luck on a controversial reversed call. They might have been able to overcome all that if they were facing another team, but that often isn't the case when the Nats and Braves meet.

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