You can dress up the Nationals' 4-3 loss to the Brewers with all the platitudes you want; yes, the Nationals did an impressive job battling back after losing JD Martin to a strained lower back in the third inning, and yes, the game was one of the more entertaining ones they've played in some time.
But there's a reason they've played 35 one-run games this year, and a reason they've lost 19 of those. The Nationals aren't good enough to salt many games away, and quite often, they're not crisp enough to take over the little moments on which these types of games swing.
That's where they failed on Saturday, in a dramatic, occasionally bizarre loss at Miller Park. The Nationals got 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball from their bullpen after Martin left the game, and they tied the game twice after falling behind 2-0 early. But Martin and Collin Balester - making what would have been a one-night-only return to the majors, until Martin strained his back - left pitches up and got homers hit off them. Michael Morse, who had two more hits, left his biggest mark on the game by getting doubled off first after Jim Edmonds' highlight catch in the fifth inning, ending the inning and nearly costing the Nationals a run.
Josh Willingham scored on that play, crossing home before Morse was doubled off first, and was awarded his run an inning later. But when Wil Nieves shot one to right in the ninth inning and Joe Inglett's throw home was well up the third-base line, Willingham retreated back to third, rather than taking a shot to score the go-ahead run.
And Drew Storen, pitching the ninth with the game tied, issued a critical walk to Rickie Weeks, a mistake he'd pay for later when Ryan Braun - who's writing his name onto the who's who list of Nationals killers - ended the game with a double off the left-field wall.
For the second night in a row, there was plenty for the Nationals to gnaw on, and more than enough moments to think about.
They had two young pitchers throw mistake offerings to Braun - who's 16-for-49 with four homers in his last 12 games against the Nationals - and Edmonds on the home runs. They made a huge baserunning mistake, and might have committed a sin of inaction in the ninth. It was ultimately a game the Nationals could've won, but those things simply made it a good-for-TV loss.
So what could've been done differently? Both of the homers were on pitches up in the zone, a mistake we've seen Balester make plenty of times before. And Morse, who was running with his head down, never saw Edmonds catch Ian Desmond's fly ball. Willingham also could've reacted better to the throw, and there's even an argument to be made that the Nationals got a little conservative in the ninth inning, playing for one run by subbing out Morse for Nyjer Morgan, though that argument fell flat when Morgan bunted for a hit instead of a sacrifice and loaded the bases for Adam Dunn.
This much was clear, though: Despite a solid bullpen performance and a gamely comeback, the Nationals lost because of things that happened in a few little moments. That's been the story plenty of times this year.