They might be coming off the first pair of four-game road sweeps in franchise history, but all of a sudden, the Nationals are saving their sloppy play for their home fans. And with Stephen Strasburg on the Nationals Park mound for the final time this year, the Nationals turned a chance to play spoilers into a frustrating evening.
Strasburg threw 38 pitches in the first inning, lasting just four innings and losing for the first time this year. Collin Balester gave up three runs after relieving Strasburg, and once the Nationals pulled within two runs, they somehow allowed a run to score when they botched a rundown and left home plate uncovered.
The end result was a 7-4 loss to the Braves, the eighth defeat the Nationals have taken in their last 13 home games. They will now have to win their final five games to finish the season above .500, and they helped the Braves extend their NL wild card lead to 2 1/2 games.
Ryan Zimmerman, who made a first-inning error, dropped a relay throw on the rundown and shifted the focus from Michael Bourn to Chipper Jones, who was retreating to third. As Zimmerman raced to the other side of the diamond and Wilson Ramos tried to run with Bourn at third, home plate was open and the Nationals had no chance to throw Bourn out. And Zimmerman looked at a strike down the middle to end the game.
More from the clubhouse in a little bit.