ATLANTA — There was hardly anything left for the Washington Nationals to say late Friday night.
Another loss — their 62nd in this season gone awry. Two more and before the calendar turns to September they could match their total from all of 2012.
Another defeat at the hands of the Atlanta Braves — this one 3-2 on a walk-off 10th-inning home run by Justin Upton, sealing their fate on a cold, misty August night. It was their 11th loss in 14 games against the Braves this season.
Another night in which they saw Bryce Harper get hit with a pitch twice — this in the second game between the teams since the benches cleared and tempers flared when Julio Teheran hit Harper with a pitch last week — without retaliation.
There was little left they could say, so they sat in silence.
Some curled themselves into the chairs in front of their lockers still in full uniform, with the dirt and grass stains still fresh, and their cleats still on. Some quietly commiserated with teammates.
Mostly, they sat, and stared.
“It’s not easy losing, that’s for sure,” said right fielder Jayson Werth, whose eighth-inning base hit to left field came one batter after Harper was hit for the second time, and brought home Ryan Zimmerman to tie the game at two.
“It’s kind of been the story of the year so far. We just play good enough to lose.”
All across the room, the mood was dour and players looked forlorn.
“That one’s tough,” said manager Davey Johnson. “We came close, but short.”
Through a team spokesman, Harper declined to comment. Ten days ago, Harper was hit with a pitch in his first at-bat after hitting a long home run, and took exception to the plunking. The benches and bullpens cleared.
The Nationals, though Harper made it clear he felt it was intentional, did not retaliate.
Neither pitch he was hit with on Friday appeared intentional, and Harper made no show of either one, quietly going to first base both times — even as Braves fans cheered loudly at his being plunked. But even the members of the Braves’ could understand if there was a growing frustration.
“I know he’s upset with it and I don’t blame him,” said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez. “Nobody likes to get hit but for it to be intentional, it’s not even close.”
“The people who think I did it on purpose don’t know anything about baseball,” said left-hander Luis Avilan, who hit Harper the second time, with a fastball. Starter Alex Wood hit him with a curveball in his back in the fourth. “We were winning 2-1. I didn’t want to put the lead run at first. If I’m going to do it on purpose, I’m not going to (throw it there). I almost hit him in his head.”
The Nationals were largely mum on the topic.
Werth said it is “one of those things we take care of in-house. That’s just part of the game. I’m not going to speak publicly about it.” And Johnson said he hoped it wasn’t intentional “cause it’s ridiculous in a close ballgame. They’ve got a lot more to lose than we do at this point, so it would be a ridiculous thing to be doing.”
Ian Krol, who was summoned in the 10th because the Braves had three left-handers in a four-batter span but hung a 2-2 curveball to Upton before he could see the next two lefties, said he didn’t think of walking Upton because his preference is always to attack a hitter. As for possible retaliation, he brushed the question off as diplomatically as he could.
“We like to play civilized,” he said. “We don’t like to cheap shot anybody. We go out there and work our tails off. Hopefully the outcome of the game goes our way.”
A five-game winning streak that stretched to the last time the Braves beat the Nationals more than a week ago had brought a little life back to the Nationals. Their standing in the playoff picture had changed minimally, but they couldn’t concern themselves with it.
Thursday, closer Rafael Soriano served up a three-run homer when he was one strike from extending that streak to six. Friday, it was Krol who had to stand and take the blame for the final blow when the Nationals went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base.
“Right now I’m pretty down on myself,” said Krol, who surrendered a home run in his previous appearance as well.
Krol pitched brilliantly when he first arrived in the majors in June, but since the All-Star break the lefty has allowed nearly half of the batters he’s faced to reach base, giving up five earned runs in 10 games and allowing all six of the runners he’s inherited to score.
“I let my team down,” he said. “Especially (with losses like this on) back-to-back nights. We fought hard to rally back and tie the game up.”
There were few positives. The Nationals made three errors behind Taylor Jordan, but the right-hander turned in another solid start, going six innings and allowing just two runs. He’ll get at least one more before being shut down for the season.
And Drew Storen, in his first appearance back after three weeks in the minor leagues, tossed a scoreless ninth inning and struck out two.
But in the end it was another night in which the negatives outweighed the positives. Another day on the calendar gone. Another loss gone final.
“They all sting,” Werth said, asked if the losses to the Braves are particularly difficult to digest. “They’ve played pretty good from start to finish and we haven’t. That’s really the story of the season so far.”