As thunder clasped in the latter innings of their 6-3 loss to the Braves, the Nationals dropped to 28-29, a season-high 61
2 games behind first-place Atlanta. Nate Karns allowed four runs (three earned) in 42
3 innings, and the patchwork Nationals behind him offered little support. Ian Desmond drilled a solo homer, but the Nationals managed only five hits for the second straight game.
Reliever Zach Duke allowed a bases-loaded double to Freddie Freeman in the sixth that gave the Nationals a three-run deficit. The Nationals had not come from three runs behind and won all year, and Sunday offered even less hope. In 10 games against the Braves this season, the Nationals have not scored a single earned run against their bullpen.
“We deserve to be where we’re at right now,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said. “We’ve played like crap. Still not in awful shape. We’re pretty deep into the season. We’ve got to get it going or else we won’t be there in the end. I don’t sense any panic or anyone stressing over it, but it’d be nice to pick it up a little.”
The Nationals could cull through the wreckage of their 10th loss in 15 games and find few silver linings. Right fielder Jayson Werth will rejoin the Nationals on Tuesday after missing an entire month with a strained hamstring. Sunday, he finished a five-game minor league rehab appearance at Class A Potomac with two three-run homers.
“He must’ve been really feeling frisky,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “He’ll be ready to carry us on his shoulders, I’m sure.”
In his major league debut, Erik Davis pitched out of a two-on, no-out jam and retired all five batters he faced. When Washington returns to Nationals Park, the lowly New York Mets and Minnesota Twins await.
“We’re in it for the long haul,” Desmond said. “It’s not a sprint. It’s definitely a marathon. You don’t want to be the guy that runs the first 100 yards as fast as you can and runs out of breath towards the end. Obviously, we’re not playing a full squad here, but we’re managing to stay in ballgames. That’s really all you can ask for.”
When the season started, the Nationals were not supposed to fall back on silver linings or take a back seat to other contenders. The Braves are now 7-3 against them after taking another series. The Nationals scored seven runs all weekend in Atlanta, below their season pace of 3.46 per game.
When the Nationals took the field Sunday, the bottom three position players in their lineup were hitting .144 (Tyler Moore), .160 (Danny Espinosa) and .143 (Jhonatan Solano). By game’s end, having drawn no walks to go with their five hits, the Nationals’ team on-base percentage dropped to .287, lowest in the majors and prospectively the fifth-lowest of any team since divisional play began in 1969.