For the rest of the afternoon, the Nationals’ best moments alternated with their most maddening. In the sixth, with the Nationals down 4-3, Jayson Werth led off with a single off reliever Chad Qualls. He moved to third on a slick hit-and-run as Laynce Nix bounced a single through the right side. Michael Morse grounded to third baseman Chase Headley, who made an odd decision to throw to the plate. Werth slid home safe.
The Nationals had tied the game, and with two on and none out, they were in business. They went about squandering the chance to take the lead with staggering efficiency. Ramos, a power-hitting catcher, dropped down a sacrifice bunt — Riggleman wanted to avoid the double play against the sinkerballing Qualls.
Jerry Hairston followed with a chopper to third. Nix was running on contact, and Headley fired home, nailing Nix. That was the second out. With Morse batting, Qualls bounced a breaking ball that skipped away from catcher Kyle Phillips. On second, Morse started for third, then stopped when he saw the ball hit the home plate umpire. On first, Hairston never saw the ball hit the ump.
Phillips corralled the ball and fired to first. Hairston flailed his arm and let Brad Hawpe tag him, then motioned to Morse as if to ask what happened.
“It definitely wasn’t a loss that went our way,” Hairston said. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, it gets by the catcher and goes to the backstop. It’s one of those freak plays.”
The play, along with so many others that broke against the Nationals, left them in a precarious spot. Next the Philadelphia Phillies, having beaten the Nats five straight times this year, come to Washington. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt will pitch. “It’s just a gut test,” Storen said.
It will be a hard three games to fix what is wrong. Is that unlucky? The Nationals may be sinking to the bottom of the league, but they will not use that as a reason why.
“We had a chance to have good luck,” Riggleman said. “And we just didn’t take advantage of it.”