Ian Desmond sat at his locker in the clubhouse Sunday evening stone faced and frustrated.
It would be inaccurate to say that the Washington Nationals have taken any of their first 30 losses this season with a sense of complacency or without disappointment, but minutes after a potentially game-saving play by Desmond turned into one where the winning run scored in the ninth inning of the San Diego Padres' 5-4 victory, Desmond was the embodiment of those frustrations.
Closer Drew Storen, who was on the mound in a tie game and got the one-out ground ball he was looking for from Padres left fielder Ryan Ludwick with Jorge Cantu on second base, said it was "a heck of an effort," by Desmond. Veteran infielder Jerry Hairston Jr. called it a "great play."
And it was all of those things for Desmond, who was playing deep in the hole, to range to his left and even knock the ball down. Instead of sliding into his glove, the ball slipped away. Desmond recovered and threw to the plate, but catcher Wilson Ramos dropped the ball upon impact. Cantu scored, and another brutal loss was on its way.
"I don't really know why it was great," Desmond said. "The run scored, and we lost the game. It wasn't very great to me."
"It just trickled away," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said of the play. "Is that unlucky? We had a chance to have good luck, and we just didn't take advantage of it when we could get some runs in."
The winning run did indeed score then - perhaps a bit of bad luck for Storen, who has allowed a run in three straight appearances after a 21-inning scoreless streak. But the game was lost long before Ludwick took a hack at Storen's 0-1 slider.
It was lost when the Nationals put two runners on base with one out or less five times and they scored in just two of those innings. It was lost when they hit into three inning-ending double plays, and it was lost because of paltry 3-for-13 batting with runners in scoring position. The Nationals had 11 hits, drew three walks and a runner reached on an error. Only four of those runners scored.
"This isn't going to cut it," Desmond said. "It's not luck. We're not unlucky. We have runners in scoring position, and we can't score them. It starts with me. I left runners out there. I've been leaving runners out there. I've got to do something different. We've all got to do something different."
"There's no other word to say it besides frustrating," he added. "I don't know what's going on... We've got to start scoring runs for our pitching staff. They've been pitching great, and we can't score runs for them. We've got to find an answer."
On Sunday, that pitcher was Yunesky Maya, though it'd be a stretch to call Maya's 4 2/3-inning, four-earned run performance great. But called up from Triple-A on Sunday morning to start in place of injured Tom Gorzelanny, Maya - and the bullpen - kept Washington within striking distance, despite squandering a two-run lead.
Maya zipped through the first three innings, but felled by a hot day and back-to-back two-out walks in the fifth, Maya's efficiency disappeared. He needed 38 pitches to get the first nine outs but 52 to get the following five.
Yet if the Nationals could plate just two more of their 15 base runners, it's a moot point.
Whether the Nationals chalked up their 30th loss - and 11th in a one-run game - by bad luck or missed opportunities it was a loss just the same.
"It just kind of leaves a bitter taste in your mouth," Storen said. "A loss is a loss, but these ones really sting. But, hey, sun's going to come up tomorrow."
It will just bring the Philadelphia Phillies with it.
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