A gut-punch of a loss

Let’s see: The Nationals, having played sketchy defense all day, overcome it and rally for a 4-3 lead over the Astros in the ninth inning - helped by a few of Houston’s own defensive issues. Then they have a liner graze the top of Adam Kennedy’s glove, watch Cristian Guzman make his third error of the day (playing right field instead of Michael Morse, who started the ninth-inning rally with a pinch hit), and see the same guy who gave them new life in the top of the ninth take it away with a walk-off homer.

Yeah, I’d say that’s a tough one to swallow.

But in reality, it’s completely in keeping with this mess of a 10-game road trip for the Nationals, which ends with them winning three games when they could’ve won seven. They dropped games in San Francisco on bloopers and near-homers, had an easy comebacker turn into a pivotal error in the ninth inning in San Diego, and blew two ninth-inning leads while losing three out of four to the Astros, the National League’s worst team.

Some of that is bad breaks, but when you make six errors in the final two games of the series, you don’t get to complain too much.

The Nationals lost the game, officially, when Matt Capps hung a slider and Carlos Lee blasted it to left for a walk-off homer in the 6-4 win. But things really went bad a batter earlier, when Guzman got caught going the wrong way on Lance Berkman’s sinking liner, and had it go under his glove. That tied the game, and a frustrated Capps overthrew his slider to Lee.

Johnny Holliday and Phil Wood ask Jim Riggleman about the Nats’ 6-4 loss to Houston

In the top of the ninth, Morse started things with a two-out pinch single, and Lee misplayed Willie Harris’ flare to left, charging it instead of playing it on a bounce and watching as it hopped over his head. Morse scored, and the Nationals took the lead on Guzman’s blooper to center.

They gave away a ninth-inning lead for the second time in the series, though, and you have to wonder what they do with right field.

Roger Bernadina isn’t hitting, and Harris, for the most part, isn’t either. Guzman is hot at the plate, but having a difficult time in the field, and if Morse wasn’t in right in the ninth, it’s worth asking when he will be out there. The lack of a full-time right fielder hasn’t looked as apparent as it does right now.

The Nationals come home tomorrow for a three-game series against the Reds, having lost five of six and about to face the surprise NL Central leaders. They need to get some stability before Stephen Strasburg comes to the majors. In addition to all the pressure he’s facing, you don’t want the rookie tasked with stopping a losing streak in his big-league debut.

More on the right field situation later, probably. Let me know your thoughts on it, though. Maybe you’ve got a better sense of how this happened.