“I’ve never seen that before with him,” Ramos said. “I don’t know what happened in that moment.”
This time, Alvarez bolted. Ramos scooped the ball off the brick wall and fired a throw to Storen, covering the plate. The ball arrived in time, but the ball hit Storen “right in the palm,” he said, and he could not hold on. Diaz signaled safe, and Storen put his hands on his head.
The play typified the Nationals’ night of small but meaningful miscues. In the fifth, pinch-hitter Roger Bernadina could have let Bryce Harper face a tiring Morton with the bases loaded. Instead, with two men on, he swung wildly at a 3-1 pitch off the plate inside. Having whiffed at ball four, he struck out on the next pitch.
“These games, there’s not a lot of margin for error,” Storen said. “And that’s what happens when you make mistakes. An opponent makes you pay for it. It’s time for us to start making people pay for their mistakes.”
The Pirates built their lead on two mistakes Haren made to Andrew McCutchen. He left a fastball up in the first and hung a slider in the third, and McCutchen crushed both for two-run homers. In his first 99 at-bats against Washington, McCutchen had 13 homers with a 1.488 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.
The blasts — which upped Haren’s league-leading total allowed to 21 — served as the basis of the 5-0 lead the Pirates took against Haren after the fourth.
“Kind of the story of my season,” Haren said. “Whenever I make a mistake, I pay the price for it.”
Monday afternoon, Johnson had drawn long, sad breaths as he discussed the Nationals’ dismissal of Eckstein. He gathered his players after batting practice and addressed the loss for “just a little minute,” Ramos said.
“I know everybody feels sad for Rick,” Ramos said. “But we’re on the field. We have to go out there and play hard. We can’t put those things together. We have to separate that.”
Monday, they blended together in a painful mix. The sting lasted all day for Johnson, and even as the day ended, it wasn’t clear when it may stop.