This wasn’t Ben Braymer’s fault. At least not entirely. The rookie was called to handle a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the fifth inning because the Washington Nationals are short their usual relief options. So it was Braymer who had to clean up for Aníbal Sánchez, and Braymer who let a deficit grow before the Nationals fell, 6-1, to the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on Tuesday night.

Four runs scored in the decisive fifth. Each was charged to Sánchez’s final line of six runs on seven hits in 4⅓ innings. The offense did very little against Ryan Yarbrough, who entered after John Curtiss, the Rays’ opener, faced the first six batters. Yarbrough pitched 5⅔ innings, allowed one run and quieted the Nationals, who dropped to 17-29.

“There are two sides of the spectrum,” Nationals Manager Dave Martinez said of putting Braymer and other young guys in big spots. “You try to take care of them sometimes. But sometimes you have to not baby them and see what they can do and see what you got.”

A few hours before first pitch, Washington placed Tanner Rainey on the injured list and recalled Aaron Barrett from their alternate site in Fredericksburg, Va. These moves are part of the daily routine this season, with the Nationals now missing key parts of their lineup and their rotation and more than a few relievers.

When Rainey hit the IL with a flexor strain in his right elbow, he joined Stephen Strasburg (carpal tunnel neuritis), Starlin Castro (broken right wrist), Sean Doolittle (strained right oblique), Roenis Elías (flexor strain in his left elbow), Sam Freeman (same as Elías) — deep breath — Dakota Bacus (flexor strain in his right elbow), Seth Romero (broken right hand), Howie Kendrick (strained left hamstring) and Javy Guerra (same as Kendrick).

Strasburg, Castro, Doolittle, Freeman and Elías are all done for the season. Rainey could be, too, though the Nationals could activate him Monday at the earliest. But with the right-hander’s emergence this summer and his new title of “future closer,” it’s likely they are very cautious with his recovery. He felt forearm tightness last week and was shut down for three days. Then Washington paused his throwing to curb any long-term issues.

“We got guys that are playing right now that have these little nagging little things going on, and we have to watch them and got to be careful,” Martinez said. “They’re going out there and doing the best they can. But I don’t want anybody to end up hurt and having to spend the rest of the winter rehabbing instead of just relaxing and getting ready for spring training next year.”

That’s how Braymer wound up jogging into a fifth-inning jam. But before he did, Sánchez turned in another rough start. His ERA had spiked to 7.38 by the end of it. He worked a scoreless first, leaning on his four-seam fastball and sinker, before the Rays put two across in the second. Nate Lowe lofted a solo homer off a low curve. Later in the inning, Sánchez yielded a two-out single, balked Kevin Kiermaier over to second and let Kiermaier come in on Kevan Smith’s single.

As he trudged through the outing, the offense struggled with the Rays. Curtiss retired five of the six hitters he faced. Yarbrough, a 28-year-old lefty, cruised through Washington aside from two singles by Carter Kieboom and Juan Soto’s double in the sixth. Soto later scored thanks to back-to-back groundouts. The bats otherwise wilted before leaving the bases loaded in the ninth.

“We chased a little bit,” Martinez said, adding that the indoor lighting made it hard for him to pick up Yarbrough’s off-speed pitches from the dugout. “We went out of the zone a little bit today.”

The fifth was when Sánchez went from shaky to shook. Austin Meadows poked a leadoff single before swiping second. It was the Rays’ third steal of the game, and opponents improved to 10 for 10 when running against a battery of Sánchez and Kurt Suzuki. And with Meadows in scoring position and Sánchez wavering, Sánchezwalked Yoshi Tsutsugo as he was called for his second balk.

In both cases, the umpires felt Sánchez didn’t pause enough after coming set. But when “Balk!” was shouted in the fifth, Sánchez rushed forward to argue. His conversation continued with home plate umpire Dan Iassogna once he was pulled for Braymer at 98 pitches. It was the 18th time this season a Nationals starter failed to complete five innings.

The second balk was later amended to just a walk, because a rule-book technicality states one event overrides the other. Sánchez did not blame any part of his start on the balk calls, though he thought he came to a full stop before the one in the fifth. Sánchez then loaded the bases and let Manuel Margot bump the Rays’ lead to 3-0 with an RBI single.

“I would love to, you know, pitch better,” Sánchez said, “get better results for myself and the team and finish the way that I want.”

He left Braymer with a mess. It could have been Wander Suero’s spot, but he has been promoted to high-leverage duty in Rainey’s and Doolittle’s absence. It could have been Guerra’s, but he is stuck on the IL. Braymer walked the first batter he faced, bringing in a run, before sandwiching Kiermaier’s two-run single with two strikeouts. From there, he covered one more out. Barrett took the next five in his season debut, and then Ryne Harper shepherded the Nationals to a lopsided finish.