This is the 60th time the Nats have lost this year, but it’s tough to remember too many games where stronger postgame words were spoken than this one, a 6-5 loss to the Astros.
Perhaps the sharpest sentiment came from Joe Beimel, who gave up the tying run in the eighth inning after Nick Johnson dropped a foul pop-up that would have been the second out; instead, Geoff Blum doubled and moved Ivan Rodriguez to third. The catcher would later score.
“Obviously, it’s a play that has to be made. Anybody with a pair of eyes can see that. But at the same time, I’ve got to make pitches after that. No excuses. I’ve got to bounce back from that and be able to get them out, make the pitches I need to, and I didn’t do it. It’s at the point where it’s beyond embarrassing for us. I think everybody in the clubhouse should be embarrassed the way we play. Just the way we lose games. We find a way all the time that’s just sickening. It’s to the point where it’s just hard to take. We’ve just got to get better.”
There was plenty of talk about the need for a clubhouse leader today after MASN commentator Rob Dibble lashed the Nationals for not having one on Thursday night. Beimel sounded like he was ready to speak up more. But asked if he felt the team needed a more vocal clubhouse presence, Beimel said, “I think that’s on yourself. You need to look in the mirror and figure out what you need to do to get better, myself included. I didn’t make the pitches I need to, and I’ve got to be able to do that.”
The other major development in this one was the two runners the Nats got thrown out at home plate by center fielder Michael Bourn, including one in the ninth inning. Third-base coach Pat Listach sent Willie Harris with one out on Nyjer Morgan’s shallow single. Bourn’s throw was off-line, but Rodriguez made a great play to field the ball, come back and tag a leaping Harris hard on the belt.
“He’s got to make a perfect throw. He did once, and he didn’t once. Pudge (Rodriguez) still picked it and threw him out,” Listach said. “Am I sitting back saying, ‘If I hold Willie up, we’ve first and third, one out, who knows what might happen?’ But I made my decision. He picked it and tagged him out.”
As reporters, we sometimes tend to only approach certain figures when something goes bad—closers and third-base coaches most frequently. Listach has cost the Nationals very few outs at home plate this season, and it took two strong defensive plays to prevent the Nationals from scoring tonight. On the first one, Adam Dunn went to second when Bourn threw out Nick Johnson; had he not, Josh Willingham’s ensuing grounder to short probably would have been an inning-ending double play and the Nats wouldn’t have scored a second run in the fourth anyway.
Manager Manny Acta, who coached third base in a much more fickle environment in his two years with the Mets, said the overriding philosophy has to be aggressiveness. That’s what Listach adhered to on those plays.
“You have to be aggressive. If the throw would have been one foot to either side, we wouldn’t even be discussing this, and I never second-guess my third base coach because we have scored over 300-something runs, and on every one of them he has waved the runner home. So I’m not going to second-guess him when one guy gets thrown out, or two or three.”