by Anthony Amobi, Staff Writer and Dave Nichols

"The way we're playing in general, defensively, is just not good enough.  We do a lot of talking about it, and we're out there working on it. I really can't explain it. I know we put the work in. I feel bad for them. I really feel bad for the players, because I know it's an issue for them. They see the number of errors. They see the game get away from us because we're not making plays." -- Manager Jim Riggleman, after the four error fiasco in a 7-6 loss to Baltimore.

The starter was pulled too quickly.  The reliever wasn't pulled quickly enough.  And the middle infielders made two errors apiece.

It all added up to one of them most demoralizing losses of the season, as the Washington Nationals fell to their regional rival Baltimore Orioles, 7-6, before 43,484 at scenic Oriole Park at Camden Yards in a 3-hour, 53 minute marathon.

It was another go-around in the annual ‘Battle of the Beltways’ interleague series, and it looked early on like it would be a laugher for the Nationals as they built a 6-0 lead.  But things turned in the fifth inning, ensuring that the game would be remembered by both fan bases for diametrically opposite reasons.

The poor defense of the Nationals ultimately undid a thrilling game, and the O's -- entering the game with the major's worst record -- came back from six runs down and earned the victory in the bottom of the ninth inning.

(Photo by Anthony Amobi/Nats News Network)

The final of four errors by the Nationals was the fatal one, and capped Baltimore's comeback.

With the game tied at six with one out in the ninth inning, Baltimore had runners at first and second base. Orioles' second baseman Julio Lugo bounced a tailor-made double-play ball to shortstop Ian Desmond, who flipped the ball to Cristian Guzman at second to force Scott Moore (2-for-2, 2 RBIs).

Moore made a good, hard slide, and sadly, Guzman’s turn and throw ended up short of first base and the ball sneaked under first baseman Adam Dunn’s glove for a devastating error. That allowed Jake Fox, the original runner at second, to score and send Baltimore to just their 21st win in 73 games.

The loss for Washington (33-41) was a tough one to swallow in more ways than one. Both Desmond and Guzman had two errors – and also manager Jim Riggleman’s decision to allow Tyler Clippard to pitch the eighth and part of the ninth inning after allowing Baltimore to tie the game played a big role as well.

The use of Clippard in Friday’s game by Riggleman will ruminate in the minds of Nats fans.

He came into the game to start off the eighth inning and immediately walked catcher Matt Wieters on five pitches. It was obvious Clippard did not have his good stuff, and every pitch to Wieters was up and out over the plate, including his ususally impressive change-up.

Moments later, pinch-hitter Scott Moore absolutely crushed a Clippard offering and sent it over the wall in right field and on to the flag court, bringing Baltimore within one of the lead, 6-5.

Instead of yanking Clippard and bringing in another reliever, Riggleman decided to stay with him and things only got worse. The reliever would give up a one-out double to light-hitting shortstop Cesar Izturis and then allowed the Orioles to tie the game off a Corey Patterson RBI-single.

Clippard ended the frame by getting the final two outs, but he inexplicably was allowed to come back out for the ninth inning, despite having just completed one of his worst outing of the season.

He walked Wieters again with one out and allowed the recently-recalled Moore to do more damage, as the first baseman singled cleanly. Mercifully, Riggleman would pull Clippard at that point, but the Nats fate had already been sealed.

(Photo by Anthony Amobi/Nats News Network)

"Just couldn't get the ball down," said Clippard. "I just didn't establish the strike zone early, so I was a little tentative after that, and it cost me."

Matt Capps entered and immediately got Lugo to hit the grounder to short that should have ended the frame.

Not on this night.
Clippard (8-4), who pitched 1 1/3 innings, took the loss.

J.D. Martin – who started the game on the mound for the Nationals – gave up three runs, all unearned, in 4 1/3 innings of work. He didn’t factor in the decision and gave up three hits, while striking out two and walking one.

He had thrown just 80 pitches when lifted by Riggleman, and the manager chewed up three pitchers to record the next four outs.

Despite the deflating loss, there were some positives in the game. The Nationals offense came alive as they took an early 6-0 lead off Baltimore rookie pitcher Jake Arrieta in the first four innings and they got amazing performances from Adam Dunn – who drove in four runs – and Nyjer Morgan, who had four hits and became a human highlight reel.

The center fielder made one of the most spectacular catches you'll ever see during the third inning, scaling the seven foot wall in right center field to rob Corey Patterson of a home run.  Morgan's left hip was even with the top of the wall and he even fought off a fan to make the catch.

(Photo by Anthony Amobi/Nats News Network)

Even Patterson gave Morgan his props by giving him a tip of his cap. Meanwhile, the 43,000 plus who saw it live at Oriole Park at Camden Yards were stunned at the sure-fire ‘web-gem’.

As good as the play was, it went for naught in the sting of one of the most disappointing losses in Nationals history.