BOSTON — It appeared to be a resurgence. Instead, it was a mirage.
The Washington Nationals fell behind, then fought back, then squandered another lead late in a game Tuesday night, falling to the Boston Red Sox, 8-7. It wasn’t quite as ugly as Monday’s series-opener, but it wasn’t pretty.
THE RUNDOWN: For the first four innings, it looked like the Nationals were headed for another lopsided loss. Stephen Strasburg allowed 10 hits and five runs, and the Nationals’ offense scored only one. Then, for two innings, it looked like this was the bounceback performance they’d been waiting for. They batted around and scored more runs in a half-inning, six, than they had scored in any game so far this season. And then, finally, there was the bullpen implosion in the seventh. It started with an Ian Desmond error. Then two hit batsmen sandwiched a fly out. Then a rare double-error by Blake Treinen, who bobbled the ball and subsequently airmailed it into the stands. A groundout completed the damage. The Nationals were down again, and this time, there was no offensive outburst coming.
THE HIGHLIGHT: The top of the fifth inning. Through the first seven games of the season, the Nationals had been starving for an inning like this, where they string hits and runs together and give their pitching staff a cushion. It finally happened Tuesday. The Nationals cycled all the way through their order, with seven players reaching base and six of them coming around to score. Bryce Harper, Clint Robinson and Desmond all singled in the inning, while Michael Taylor drove in a pair of runs with a triple to center field.
STAR OF THE GAME: Desmond had a nice game at the plate after a slow start to the season. He entered Tuesday hitting .115 but finished 3-for-4 with a double and two singles, including one that prolonged the monster fifth inning. Of course, he also committed his sixth error in eight games, so it wasn’t all positive for the shortstop.
THE TAKEAWAY: Man. I mean. Man. Just when you think the Nationals have turned the corner and started playing up to their capabilities, they blow a two-run lead late in another game. This time, like Saturday’s loss in Philadelphia, the majority of the burden falls on Treinen. His double-error was evidence of the anxiety that creeps in when you underperform like the Nationals have. You begin thinking about not screwing up, trying not to lose a game instead of trying to win it. It’s human nature. When the Nationals shake that sense, they’ll skyrocket up the standings and probably wind up where they should be. For now, however, it’s getting increasingly tough to watch.