Since the second half started, the Nationals have leapt at every opportunity to make forehead-smacking miscues at pivotal moments. Zimmerman fielded the ball cleanly and fired to Rendon, who has been a second baseman for all of two months. As Zimmerman’s throw arrived, Rendon peeked at first base. “I think I just got a little too quick with it,” Rendon said. The ball thudded off his glove and dropped to the dirt.
“That was the mistake an inexperienced second baseman will make on a throw from third,” Johnson said. “You assume you’re going to catch it, and you peek towards the runner. It’s always that transition — you’ve got to see it in the glove before you do it.”
Jordan could have escaped with just one run having crossed. Instead, the Pirates scored another run and he still faced a mess. Cole, the pitcher, faked a bunt, pulled back the bat and ripped a grounder through the left side to drive home the Pirates’ third run.
Jordan received a reprieve when Rendon made a leaping grab of Starling Marte’s liner and started a double play to end the inning. On Sunday, they faced a 7-0 hole after two innings. The night before, it had been a two-run deficit. Now they trailed, 3-0, before they had taken their second turn at-bat.
The offense left Jordan little chance of claiming his first career win. He allowed nine hits and five runs, four of them earned and all but one preventable. Jordan struck out four and produced 14 groundouts and just two fly outs.
“I’m starting not to really care up who is up to bat,” Jordan said.
Jordan faced one batter over the minimum in his next four innings. With his bullpen depleted, Johnson let Jordan cruise into the eighth with just 88 pitches. Jordan retired the first two hitters he faced, and Johnson wanted to give him a chance to claim the win, so he left him in to face Alvarez, a left-hander. He laced a homer into the front row of the seats in left. Jordan crouched on the mound, watching the ball disappear.
He yielded one more single, then watched as Ian Krol let the run score. After the Nationals went in order in the ninth inning, they collected their things and retreated to the clubhouse. The thinning crowd hurled half-hearted boos.
“It seems like all year we’ve been talking about, it’s gonna turn,” Werth said. “Things are gonna turn. Things are going to go our way. We’re going to get a call. Really, it hasn’t yet.”