On Saturday, the Washington Nationals got a well-pitched game from their starter and three relievers, out-hit their opponent, made no errors, and tied the game up late with a clutch hit against an All-Star closer.

Unfortunately, they also left 15 runners on base and had three runners gunned out on the basepaths--including two at home plate--killing rallies and leaving the Nats shaking their heads trying to figure out how they lost a game--a 4-3 decision to the Los Angeles Dodgers--they had several chances to win.

The most damaging play was in the bottom of the 13th inning, after the Dodgers pushed one across in the top of the frame to take the lead.

Ivan Rodriguez hit a one-out single to get things started, and Nyjer Morgan, who had some misadventures of his own on the base paths, doubled to the right field corner, moving "Pudge" to third base.

Rodriguez, who did not start due to back tightness, couldn't score on the play, though Morgan would easily have had a triple were it not for the lead runner.  There was no pinch-runner available, as Manager Jim Riggleman used Willy Taveras to unsuccessfully pinch-hit for Matt Capps with two outs in the 10th inning.

The next batter, Ian Desmond, bounced a lazy ground ball to third baseman Casey Blake.  With one out, Rodriguez' first inclination should have been to let the ball go through the infield before running.  But he broke when he saw the ball was hit slowly.

Blake fired a strike to Russell Martin, and the catcher calmly applied the tag on a close play.

As for whether Rodriguez should have been trying to score there, Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said: "It was a good gamble. Blake made a good play. ... If the throw is just a hair off, he is going to be safe."

Cristian Guzman flied out to left field to end the game.

The miscalculation by the future Hall of Famer made a winner out of Dodgers reliever Carlos Monasterious (W, 1-0, 2.08) for the first time in the major leagues.

Twice earlier in the game the Nats made base-running mistakes that in a one-run loss would loom big.

In the sixth inning, pitcher Craig Stammen (7 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 3 K) singled with two outs to score Alberto Gonzalez, who had doubled off Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw.  The next batter, Nyjer Morgan, hit a ball to deep left center.

Third base coach Pat Listach waived Stammen home, and from most estimations even if the throw had gone through he probably would have scored.  But Morgan tried to get the Dodgers to cut the throw and try to get him instead.  He continued to third base and was gunned down 7-4-5 to end the inning.

Stammen did not cross the plate before Morgan was tagged out, so the run did not score.

Morgan should have either held at second or gotten into a run down between second and third, and both he and Listach acknowledged the mistake after the game.

"I was being aggressive, but not intelligent," Morgan told reporters after the game. "I have to be a little smarter in that situation, but still, it was an aggressive play."

"If they throw the ball home, he walks into third," Listach said to reporters. "If they throw the ball to third, he's got to stop and let him cross the plate first."

The other out at home was in the seventh.  Ian Desmond doubled to lead off the inning.  Cristian Guzman followed with a routine ground ball to short.  Desmond's first mistake was running with the play in front of him, because if shortstop Rafael Furcal had fielded the ball cleanly, he would have been a dead duck at third.

But Furcal booted it, rushing to make the play, and both runners were safe.  The Nats had first and third with no outs in the bottom of the seventh.

Adam Dunn (2-for-6, 3 Ks) struck out on a called check swing, which brought up Josh Willingham.

The "Hammer" hit a ground ball to third, and Desmond inexplicably broke for the plate.  He was thrown out easily by Blake.  Pinch-hitter Willie Harris grounded to second to end the inning.

So the Nats lost a one-run game after having three runners make outs on the base paths, two at home plate.  Riggleman called them "mistakes of aggression."  But still mistakes.

It's a philosophical thing, really.  Do you play aggressively, forcing the action but taking the chance to run into outs?  Or are you more conservative, biding your time, willing to take the chance with your next hitter?

Do or die?  Or live to fight another day?

Today, the Nats died, so to speak.

With the loss, the Nats failed in their attempt to climb two games above .500.  They are having some success winning ball games so far this season, so it's still improbable that one game in April is going to make any difference record-wise at the end of the year.

It bears watching, though, if the Nats learn anything from today's mistakes.

NATS NOTES:  Sunday's finale with the Dodgers features Scott Olsen (0-1, 11.74) against Chad Billingsly (1-0, 7.07).

Miguel Batista (L, 0-2, 5.87) took the loss.  He went three innings and gave up one run on three hits and a walk.

Closer Matt Capps threw two scoreless innings and struck out four.

The Nats stole three bases, including one by Adam Kennedy which set up the game tying single by Stammen.

Stammen went 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI.

Nationals batters struck out 11 times and walked just three times.

All Photos 2010 © Cheryl Nichols Photography/Nationals News Network. All Rights Reserved.

Here's Manager Jim Riggleman's post-game press conference.

Video 2010 © Cheryl Nichols Photography/Nationals News Network. All Rights Reserved.