The Nationals' 80th loss of the year, which came on Wednesday afternoon against the New York Mets, was like so many of their previous 79: A break here or a break there - or perhaps a defensive play made here or a clutch hit there - and the Nationals might have been heading into tomorrow's off-day with a victory.
Instead, they lost their second in a row to the Mets, in a game that illustrated why they're stuck in last place for the third year in a row. The Nationals are now 17-25 in one-run games, losing the close ones they won early this year. On Wednesday, the play that turned the game was a fluke base hit down the first-base line.
Sean Burnett threw an inside fastball to Nick Evans, who broke his bat and sent it down the first base line. Adam Dunn couldn't chase it down, and Josh Thole scored to give the Mets the lead for good.
Burnett had thrown Evans five sinkers away, and decided to come inside with one. It's an odd place for a lefty to pitch to a right-handed hitter, but it was even stranger that Evans hit it the other way.
"He was taking some funky swings and hitting them over the dugout, so I figured I could take a chance in and probably get in on him," Burnett said. "Unfortunately, he hit it to where somebody wasn't, and it ended up changing the game."
It's debatable whether Adam Dunn should have had the ball at first, but the play was similar to the Raul Ibanez grounder that Dunn missed in a 1-0 loss to Philadelphia last month; it's not that Dunn should have had it, but it's that a better fielder at first might have.
Burnett, who came in for Livan Hernandez in the seventh inning, blamed himself.
"It stinks," he said. "Livan threw such a good game. It's tough. You don't want to give up other people's runs, especially when the guy threw such a good game. It also gives him a loss, too. That was the hardest part - I felt like I was doing what I had to. I took a chance by going in, and unfortunately it didn't work out. But at the same time, it was more unlucky than it was a bad pitch."