The Nationals will return to Washington on Monday for a series opener against the St. Louis Cardinals with a chance to establish themselves against the opponent who ended their 2012 season. The Nationals, at 10-8, are on pace to win 90 games. But they also know they have not scratched their potential and understand they must improve to make it back to October.
“If we continue to take the same approach that worked and the same thing we did last year, it should even out,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said. “But, yeah, this is unacceptable right now. There’s some pretty bad baseball.”
After blundering their way through the afternoon, the Nationals gave themselves a chance to steal a victory from the Mets. They trailed only 2-0 in the eighth because Jordan Zimmermann and Zach Duke had weathered errors from Ian Desmond, Rendon and Bryce Harper as the Nationals’ bats wilted against starter Dillon Gee, a right-hander who entered with an 8.36 ERA.
They had tapped into the soft belly of the Mets’ bullpen, represented in the form of Scott Rice, a left-hander who spent 14 years in the minors before this year. Steve Lombardozzi smacked a pinch-hit single. Denard Span walked. Werth took three consecutive balls for a 3-0 count.
Werth moved up in the batter’s box, looking for a pitch he could pull and drive over the fence. Rice had thrown seven straight balls, but “I felt like he was going to groove one,” Werth said. “I felt I could do damage.”
Werth, the oldest and most experienced player on the Nationals, instead achieved a measure of ignominy. He became the first big leaguer of 2013 to ground into a double play on a 3-0 pitch. He hacked at an outside, 88-mph sinker and rolled it to shortstop. Ruben Tejada flipped to David Murphy, who fired to Ike Davis.
“I was caught up in the moment,” Werth said afterward. “Looking back, I was trying to do too much. I was trying to win the game right there. That’s it, really. We can sit here and talk about the situation. I was just trying to do too much. The situation got the best of me. That’s probably one of the dumber things I’ve done on the field in a while. Look no further than right here. We had a chance to win the game. I feel like I pretty much blew it.”