Aug 31, 2013, 12:26 AM EST
If the Nationals are going to complete a gargantuan comeback and actually make the postseason after falling 6 games below the .500 mark in early August — and the odds still are decidedly stacked against them doing it — they can’t afford to come up short in clutch situations. They can’t afford to make poor decisions at critical points of ballgames. And they certainly can’t offer up anything less than 100 percent of their effort at any point between now and September 29.
The Nationals struggled in all three departments Friday night during a 3-2 loss to the Mets that felt like a golden opportunity squandered. Sure, they might have lost this game anyway. And every loss they suffer over the next four weeks is going to loom large.
But there was something about the way this one played out in the final two innings that might have left more of a bitter taste in everyone’s mouths than previous losses.
The two critical moments involved two of their biggest stars: Ryan Zimmerman, who allowed the eventual decisive run to score on an ill-advised throw in the top of the eighth, and Bryce Harper, who had a couple of questionable swings in a huge spot in the bottom of the eighth and then failed to hustle down the first-base line upon grounding out to kill the rally.
“The thing about Bryce right now that’s tough: He gets frustrated,” said bench coach Randy Knorr, who had to take over for an ill Davey Johnson mid-game. “I don’t think he does it intentionally, but he’s gonna have to start picking it up a little bit, because we’ve got everybody else doing it. He gets frustrated at times and it just comes out of him. It’s something we’ve got to fix.”
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