The Washington Times - July 25, 2013, 12:02AM

Wilson Ramos threw up his hands in disbelief and shouted at second base umpire Laz Diaz. Davey Johnson sprinted as fast as his 70-year-old legs could carry him out of the dugout in search of an explanation. The Pittsburgh Pirates assembled on the infield to shake hands and celebrate another victory. Their 60th. 

The chaotic scene fit. At at the end of another night in which their offense was largely punchless and they wasted a near-brilliant pitching performance from Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals stood at the dugout railing and hollered at Diaz, who’d called Ramos out on a tag that never happened for a game-ending double play.

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“Not even close,” Ramos said. “He never tagged me… But I don’t know, maybe (Diaz) wanted to go home.”

It wasn’t the reason for the Nationals’ 4-2 loss to the Pirates, their seventh consecutive defeat and their 11th loss in 13 games, a downward spiral that continues to turn and send their 2013 season twisting in the wind. 

But, moments after Jayson Werth’s two-run homer gave them life for the second time in three games, it was the end.  

And it left them with the most difficult of unanswered questions when they are grasping for any slivers of momentum and glimmers of positivity are fleeting. What if?

“It was not even close, and that’s too bad that Laz missed it,” said Denard Span, who hit the bouncing ball toward second baseman Neil Walker that started the play. 

“It’s no secret that the ball definitely isn’t bouncing our way. That (play) wasn’t the story of the game tonight, but anything could’ve happened if that play isn’t called there.”

What if? 

Perhaps, with an offense weakened by the absences of Ian Desmond and Bryce Harper due to necessary days off, it wouldn’t have mattered. 

Perhaps the Nationals squandering eight superb innings out of Strasburg — eight innings that featured a season-high 12 strikeouts, no walks, and just two hits — by producing not a single drop of offense until the ninth inning would’ve been too much for them to overcome, anyway.

Strasburg was so good, he blew even his catcher away. 

“For me, that’s the Stephen everybody knows,” Ramos said. “That’s Stephen Strasburg.” 

Perhaps if Drew Storen hadn’t absorbed yet another debacle of an inning, which opened with a base hit and an RBI-double and ended with Fernando Abad allowing a two-run single into left field, the Nationals’ late-game heroics would’ve won the game instead of going down as just another night in which they were simply not good enough.

The what ifs, the perhapses, the wondering what might have been, it was fruitless. 

On Tuesday night, they talked about silver linings. They talked about the plight of a division that has been unbelievably mediocre at the same time — and the fact that it has kept them within striking distance if they finally would play the way they felt they could.  

The Atlanta Braves won Wednesday night. The Nationals’ fell to nine games back in the division. The Nationals have not brought any of their last 10 runs home without a homer. Eight of those 10 have scored on home runs off the bat of Werth.

There were fewer silver linings to be had.  

“We need to win some games,” Strasburg said. “It’s getting to the point where our backs against the wall so we’ve got to do what it takes. 

“When things get tough, your true colors really come out. It’s all about what type of person you are. Are you the type that’s going to sit there and look in the mirror and do everything you can to be better out there or are you going to start pointing fingers? I don’t think there’s a single guy in the clubhouse who’s going to start pointing fingers. Every single guy in here is responsible and we all want to win just as bad as any other team out there.”