The Washington Times - September 27, 2009, 06:21PM

After Sunday’s 6-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves — the Nats’ fifth in six games against the Braves and Dodgers — interim manager Jim Riggleman said again how he felt the team with baseball’s worst record isn’t that far behind playoff contenders like the two teams the Nationals just faced.

“The thing is, the final score of the game is 6-3. It was a 3-2 ballgame the whole game. It’s 3-3 in the eighth and ninth,” Riggleman said. “I’m not stupid – you can play a lot of close games and still be a bad ballclub – (but) the difference between us and the other clubs is not that wide a gap. We played them right there, every ballgame – the 14-2 game (against the Dodgers on Tuesday), obviously not. We had chances to win those series. And if you’re winning series, that means you’re competitive with those teams. We just made some mistakes.”


The first of those mistakes would be Josh Willingham throwing to the wrong base in the fourth inning, allowing the Braves to move two baserunners up a base and costing the Nationals a potential inning-ending double play on the next at-bat. Garret Anderson hit a grounder to short, but with runners on second and third, the Nats could only get one out from it. And then Yunel Escobar tripled to left off Livan Hernandez, scoring two runs.

“Josh, when he came in, he said, ‘I know I’ve got to throw that ball to second,’” Riggleman said. “But there’s four players involved in the play that can be yelling and communicating to get the ball to second base instead of throwing to third. We just didn’t get it done as a team, on that particular play and in the game.”

And the second major mistake was Mike MacDougal’s 10th inning. He walked a batter, hit a batter, couldn’t retire Chipper Jones on a comebacker and gave up a decisive single to pinch hitter Omar Infante. MacDougal, who the Nats are trying to evaluate for next season, could be brought back if the price is right, but he isn’t earning himself much money right now. His ERA has jumped to 3.86, and he struggled again controlling the movement on his 97-mph fastball on Sunday.

“The guy I walked, those pitches were close,” MacDougal said. “Chipper Jones found the perfect hole, and the same with Infante. He hit it off the end of the bat and it just happened to be in the right spot.”

That’s all from here. Maybe the Nats’ three-game series against the fourth-place Mets, the last one of the year at Nationals Park, will be kinder to the home team than the last two have been. Ross Detwiler faces Nelson Figueroa in Game 1 at 7:05 on Monday night. Talk to you then.