Sep 3, 2013, 12:29 AM EDT
PHILADELPHIA — If and when the Nationals officially are eliminated from the playoff race later this month — and “when” is looking more and more likely than “if” at the moment — they may be tempted to harken back to their toughest losses of the season, the ones that they just knew would come back to haunt them at season’s end.
When that happens, the Nationals almost certainly will recall Monday night’s 3-2 loss to the Phillies, a game that was there for the taking and then slipped away in demoralizing fashion.
“It’s a stab in the heart,” manager Davey Johnson said. “We’ve got to win these games.”
The Nationals took the field at Citizens Bank Park knowing they needed to win their series opener against Philadelphia in order to keep pace with the Reds, victorious earlier in the day. And they put themselves in position to do it, scratching out the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth and then handing the ball to their most-trusted reliever.
But Tyler Clippard, who had been scored upon in only 10 of his previous 61 appearances this season, allowed the tying and eventual winning runs to score during a two-out rally that left the Nationals dazed and now staring at a 7 1/2-game deficit for the NL’s final Wild Card berth with only 25 to play.
At 69-68, they would need to go 21-4 to reach 90 wins.
“It’s never easy, man,” Clippard said. “You could go 40 scoreless and give it up one night, it’s never easy. Losing sucks.”
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