- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 4, 2013

Jayson Werth stood at his locker and ticked off the list of places he got beaten up Sunday afternoon.

A fastball to the ribs in the second inning had left him with a nasty bruise. Another that connected with the knuckles on his right hand, but was ruled a foul ball by the umpire, sent him for X-rays, though they came back negative. All this after tweaking his groin Saturday night.

As he ran down the docket, the Washington Nationals’ best hitter sighed. He didn’t say it, but he could’ve just as easily added another loss to the list of things that were ailing him.

An 8-5 defeat by the Milwaukee Brewers in a game the Nationals led by three runs in the sixth inning capped a 2-3 road trip. The Nationals have a 54-57 record to pair with an ever-growing deficit in the National League East (12) and the wild card (6 1/2).

“One of those days,” Werth said, letting out an exasperated chuckle at all that had gone wrong in the previous three hours.

All that had gone wrong in a five-run sixth inning that featured more bloops and bleeders than hard hits, but resulted in five runs all the same.

“It was definitely one of those days,” he said. “We’re going to need to start playing better, soon.”

The Nationals‘ latest defeat, a loss that ensured they wouldn’t sweep their first series in a month, turned in the sixth inning. When everything that had gone well to that point stopped. And everything that could have gone wrong did.

“Every kind of break you could think of happened,” manager Davey Johnson said.

Taylor Jordan, who allowed just two runners to reach scoring position in the first five innings, found himself in a bases loaded, no outs jam. Fernando Abad, called on to relieve him with one out, made what teammates agreed were good pitches. The results hid that fact.

One ball bounced over the leap of Ryan Zimmerman at third base for a run-scoring single.

Another, smashed by Juan Francisco down the first base line, appeared it might have gone foul. Adam LaRoche pleaded with first base umpire David Rackley that it did and felt that was confirmed on replay. Johnson, pleaded with home plate umpire Gary Darling to get help on the call. All of it was to no avail. The game was tied.

And then, with runners on second and third, the Nationals played the infield in. So Brewers third baseman Jeff Bianchi popped a ball up behind second base. As Ian Desmond and Anthony Rendon sprinted back, they could only watch helplessly as it fell.

“I mean, that’s the tough part,” catcher Kurt Suzuki said. “That chopper over Zim’s head, judgment call down the line that we thought was foul. Bianchi, that ball that barely got to the outfield.

“They scored all their runs with those three hits and none of them was hit on the barrel. Give ‘em credit. They put the bat on the ball. They didn’t strike out.”

Perhaps the tougher part to stomach was more of what has plagued the Nationals throughout this mystifying season.

The Nationals took a 3-0 lead in the second inning doing what they’ve often failed to: capitalizing. Kyle Lohse hit Werth and Desmond with pitches in the second inning, and they both came around to score. They got back-to-back hits with runners in scoring position. The Brewers made an error, and the Nationals made them pay. The Brewers gave them an opening, and the Nationals took it.

Then suddenly, they stopped. They left five runners on base. They went 0 for 9 in their remaining chances with runners in scoring position. They could have padded their lead to ensure an inning like the sixth didn’t haunt them, but they failed to.

“Hindsight, after we lose a game like that, you definitely look back and see that we had Kyle Lohse on the ropes a couple innings and we didn’t capitalize,” said center fielder Denard Span, who went 0 for 5. “He was hanging on. He was battling his butt off. We were one or two hits away from definitely, I think, putting him away.”

“We had plenty of opportunities to add on, we just didn’t do it,” Johnson said. “That’s been kind of the scenario all year. Get runners in scoring position, don’t swing the bat. Don’t get the big hit. That was particularly tough. We’ve got a three-run lead, late in the ballgame. We should be able to hold it.”

They packed quietly. Another day on the calendar gone, the task ahead of them in trying to reach the playoffs made no easier. The Atlanta Braves awaited them at home.

“Anytime you play the team in front of you, especially when you’re behind, they’re games we need to win,” Werth said. “We’re playing them quite a bit. Nine more times. We need to win.”

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