“It’s getting to a point where we’re just not winning games,” said right fielder Jayson Werth, who went 2 for 3 with a walk and a two-run homer in the fourth inning. “You hate to accept losing at any point. But the losses are definitely piling up.”
Having gone 6-13 since the all-star break, the Nationals sit a season-worst six games below .500, 15½ games behind the Braves and nine games behind the Cincinnati Reds in the race for the second National League wild-card spot.
The Braves went ahead for good on a three-run, two-out rally in the eighth, which came against Ryan Mattheus and Ian Krol as Tyler Clippard sat idle in the bullpen. Manager Davey Johnson’s decision to keep his best reliever shelved added to a long day and a hard night. Johnson hobbled into his postgame news conference and announced he had thrown out his back in the afternoon.
“That’s how this year’s going,” he said.
Johnson went on to say Jordan Zimmermann had been limited to a four-inning, 88-pitch start in part because the neck stiffness he had dealt with earlier in the season had returned. When Zimmermann heard Johnson’s diagnosis, he pursed his lips and shook his head.
“That’s news to me,” Zimmermann said.
In the seventh inning, cameras caught Johnson and Bryce Harper shouting in the Nationals’ dugout. Harper had led off the bottom of the seventh with a flyball to left field, and then he trotted to first base.
“Yeah, I went over,” Johnson said. “I was concerned about his leg bothering him because he didn’t round the base. That was all that was about.”
Johnson added that Harper told him he “messed up” and didn’t want to leave the game. Harper said the conversation was not as heated as it seemed on television.
“He was checking out my leg, seeing how I felt,” Harper said. “I told him I felt fine and I didn’t want him to take me out of the game.”
Afterward, in an emptied Nationals clubhouse, Werth walked out of the trainer’s room and sat at his locker to face a waiting group of reporters. He had recently found notes he had written to himself before he signed a seven-year deal in December 2010 with Washington, thoughts about potential teams.
“I was just kind of reading over the notes, and for the Nats one of the things said we would be good toward the end of my contract,” Werth said. “It kind of put things in perspective with the success last year and, really, where we’re at now with the guys. We’re still in the building-type phase. I know with all the expectations, it didn’t really seem like that but we’ve got a lot of young players. The direction’s still good. We’ve got a lot of young talent, and there’s a lot of things to look forward to here in Washington.”