- Jimmy Carter: Don’t hurt Russian people with sanctions
- Oldest ex-MLB player dies in Cuba, 2 days shy of 103rd birthday
- ‘Top Gun’ for drones: Squadrons of carrier-based killers have Navy’s approval
- Bill Clinton to endorse Charlie Rangel for re-election
- Pfc. Bradley Manning is now Pfc. Chelsea Manning: Court says so
- Secret base U.S. special forces used to train Libyans now under terrorist control: report
- 9th suspect in N.C. kidnapping turns self in to FBI
- L.A. sheriff admits to testing flyover spy program without notifying residents
- Foreign minister vows response if Russians are attacked in Ukraine
- Robert Griffin III to drive pace car before Richmond NASCAR race
‘Fun game’ has disappointing result for Nationals
Davey Johnson called it "a fun game." Saturday night's game between the Nationals and the Phillies featured a lot of strategy, a lot of "chess moves" as the Nationals manager called them. Pitching changes, pinch hitters, pinch runners. All that and more. The Phillies even put the potential winning run on base via an intentional walk.
Yep, it was a blast all right.
"Except," Johnson noted, "we lost."
That does tend to put a damper on things. Earlier in the season, the 5-4 loss to the Phillies could have been chalked up as a competitive, interesting game that just happened to go the other team's way. It happens a lot over the course of a long season.
But now? There's no room for such games, even as well as the Nats have been playing lately. The loss snapped a seven-game winning streak. More important, it dropped Washington back to 5 ½ games behind the Cincinnati Reds in the battle for a wild-card playoff berth. Before Washington even took the field, Cincinnati had dispatched Milwaukee 7-3.
The Nationals, who have won 24 of their past 34 games, have 14 games left. Making up 5 ½ games in that short of a stretch is not impossible. It's also not easy. There may not be room for more than another loss or two.
"We're working so hard, we're doing everything we can, we've gone on a great streak," said Gio Gonzalez, Washington's starting pitcher Saturday. "To see this one loss feels like a big blow to the stomach. We're not counting ourselves out. We still have a chance."
The Nationals clubhouse was quiet after the game, as it usually is after a defeat. They're trying to remain upbeat in the big picture. While the math is tough with only 14 games left, they are not eliminated yet.
"We've come this far," said Denard Span, the leadoff hitter who extended his hitting streak to 25 games with a single in his first at-bat.
"Nobody expected us to be where we are now two weeks ago. So we just have to keep battling. We've played good baseball. We can't get too down on ourselves. We have to regroup and be ready to come back tomorrow and get a win and get back on the right track."
But the Nats also know they're not in position to absorb too many more defeats.
Gonzalez was kicking himself over one pitch that came in the fifth inning with the game tied at 1. Philadelphia's Carlos Ruiz hit it for a three-run double over the head of right fielder Jayson Werth.
Earlier in the inning, Gonzalez gave up a one-out home run to John Mayberry that tied the score. He then gave up two singles, got an out and walked Chase Utley before Ruiz' double. Johnson said Gonzalez "just had that one inning where he looked like he lost his command."
Gonzalez seemed to take a bit of an exception to that suggestion.
"I was one pitch away from getting out of the inning. I don't think I lost it too much," he said. "To give up those runs makes a huge difference. That could have changed the whole game."
A few stalls down, shortstop Ian Desmond was mad at himself over a baserunning blunder in the third inning. Washington had the bases loaded and one out. On a sharp grounder to short, Desmond was thrown out at third. The Nats ended up with no runs.
"I made a pretty big mistake running on that ball *** it just kind of flipped the momentum," Desmond said. "They came back, put up four runs. I've made a lot of errors in the big leagues, but that was probably the worst one. That was a mental error. I wasn't paying attention to the signs."
Philadelphia tacked on a run in the seventh. Washington came back with three in its half of the inning. In the ninth, Ryan Zimmerman led off with a sharp double. Werth and Desmond flew out. The Phillies then elected to walk Bryce Harper to get to Wilson Ramos. He hit the ball solidly, but right at shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who made the easy play at first.
Game over, streak over.
Season over? Not just yet, the Nats say.
"We're playing with house money," Desmond said. "Everybody kind of wrote us off, and we're fighting our way back in. Just keep on playing and what will be will be."
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Washington Times sports editor Mike Harris has more than 30 years experience in the business as a reporter, columnist and manager. He’s covered a wide variety of events including two Olympics, horse racing, auto racing, professional and college sports. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow the section on Twitter @WashTimesSports.
- HARRIS: Echoes of 1978 NBA champs in these Wizards
- HARRIS: Wizards have moved to head of D.C.'s class
- HARRIS: Bad luck or bigger omen, early returns for Nationals are troubling
- HARRIS: Masters has plenty of appeal in Tiger's absence
- HARRIS: Throwing it all away: What to do with Ryan Zimmerman?
Latest Blog Entries
- Gio Gonzalez living a dream by throwing bullpen sessions to ex-Yankee Jorge Posada
- Meet Connor Carrick, the youngster who played his way onto the Caps' final roster
- Go Aggies: Nationals notes and lineups for Sept. 14
- RG3: There is no conflict with Redskins coach Mike Shanahan
- Sunday Nats-Dodgers lineups and some thoughts from reliever Craig Stammen
Feds who send arms against ranch families betray American values
- Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy hailed as patriot, ripped as lawless deadbeat
- CARSON: When government looks more like foe than friend
- Pentagon plans to replace flight crews with 'full-time' robots
- Georgia governor signs bill expanding gun rights
- Texas is next! AG warns BLM wants 90,000 acres after Bundy ranch standoff
- Harry Reid using tax dollars to fight Koch brothers, La. GOP chair charges
- America is an oligarchy, not a democracy or republic, university study finds
- Opposition rising to Colorado gun control laws
- Ukraine claims torture by pro-Russian forces on the heels of Biden's stern warning to Moscow
- Professor apologizes after blasting Republicans in class
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.
Celebrity deaths in 2014