NEW YORK — The Washington Nationals were unable to break out of their two-week slump Tuesday, taking a tie game into the seventh inning but losing to the New York Yankees, 6-1.
Ian Desmond’s throwing error in the seventh allowed one run to score, but Washington, overall, couldn’t regroup from there. The Yankees tacked on three more runs in the inning, and another run in the ninth to put the game out of reach.
The Nationals had six hits. They have now lost nine of their past 11 games.
THE RUNDOWN: The ballyhooed pitching matchup between Masahiro Tanaka and Max Scherzer definitely lived up to the hype over the first six innings, with each team only scoring on a solo home run. That stretch included a weird sequence of events in the bottom of the sixth. It began with a one-out double by Mark Teixeira, who likely could have scored on a single by Brian McCann in the next at-bat. Instead, Teixeira paused to ensure that the low fly ball wasn’t caught, advancing only to third base. That made a difference when Carlos Beltran then hit a diving fly ball to center field. It wasn’t clear whether Michael A. Taylor caught it, but the Yankees assumed that he did. The umpires, however, did not rule it an out. So the Nationals flipped the ball to second base for the out. Didi Gregorius then struck out to end the inning.
THE HIGHLIGHT: Bryce Harper watched three teams when he was growing up in Las Vegas: The Chicago Cubs, because they played on WGN; the Atlanta Braves, because they played on TNT; and the Yankees, because, well, they’re the Yankees. “I always enjoyed the pinstripes and [Derek] Jeter and things like that,” Harper said. It was fitting, then, that in his second professional at-bat at Yankee Stadium, Harper hit a solo home run to center field. He now has 20 homers in the first 58 games of the season.
STAR OF THE GAME: Once again, not many strong candidates tonight. Harper had the home run, but he also tried to bunt with two strikes and no outs in the seventh inning. It’s unclear what he was thinking exactly, but not a good decision. Scherzer was superb before giving up a few base hits at the very end. So I suppose I’ll give this to Yunel Escobar. Serving as the designated hitter, he was 2 for 4 with a double. Or, to put it another way, he singlehandedly recorded two of Washington’s six hits. That’s star-worthy tonight.
THE TAKEAWAY: Look, every team makes errors. The Nationals are no exception. The difference, at least this season, is that the Nationals have allowed errors to completely change the dynamics of games. It happened Tuesday when Desmond threw to third base, instead of first, with two on and two out in the seventh. Should he have tried to throw out Alex Rodriguez, a slower runner with a clear throwing lane? Probably. It’s a tough split-second decision, but a clear one. That’s fine. Those things happen. What can’t happen, if you’re the Nationals, is what followed: One error-induced run suddenly becoming four runs and a game out of reach. It seems like that’s happened a lot already this year.