What was behind the Nats' surprisingly poor defense in Atlanta?

ATLANTA - The Nationals, for the vast majority of the season, have been a stellar defensive club, ranking among the best in baseball in most fielding categories.

So what in the world happened this weekend?

The Nationals booted, dropped and threw away the ball at Turner Field, committing nine errors (five of them alone during Sunday's 10-inning loss) that led to seven unearned runs over four days.

"I'm hoping we got it out of our system," manager Dusty Baker said. "Because we won three out of four here, but we did not play good baseball here. We've got to feel fortunate we won three out of four, even though we weren't playing good baseball."

Murphy-Throws-White-Sidebar.jpgThe errors varied in type and field location. Third baseman Anthony Rendon threw a ball away. So did second baseman Daniel Murphy. Center fielder Trea Turner dropped a ball as he tried to throw to the plate. Shortstop Danny Espinosa was uncharacteristically charged with four errors in three games, both booting a grounder and making poor throws to first base and the plate.

Could the conditions at Turner Field have played any role? Players from several teams have complained about the infield in Atlanta for several years, and Baker himself mentioned that the excessive use of "Diamond Dry" after heavy rain this week made the ball bounce unnaturally off the infield dirt.

But that doesn't explain the errant throws or the dropped balls.

Sunday's game represented the nadir. The Nationals' five errors were their most in a single game since 2011 and only one shy of the club record.

"We didn't play a good game at all," Baker said. "We played a sloppy game. And we would've been lucky to win that game with five errors. The game's not meant to be played 32 outs to 27 outs. And we still had action on winning that game."

Indeed, despite their woes in the field the Nationals were in position to sweep the series from the Braves. Only a late bullpen collapse Sunday prevented that from happening.

They probably can't count on overcoming those mistakes anymore, though, not with what is essentially a difficult four-game series beginning tonight against the Orioles.

Baker and Co. had better hope this weekend was the anomaly in a season that otherwise has featured sparkling defense.

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