"I was late. That's all I can say there. I was late. That's no excuse," -- Roger Bernadina, picked off second with winning run at the plate.

Roger Bernadina looks for help after getting picked off to end the game.  (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/Nats News Network)

THE RESULTS:  One of Thursday night's heroes for the Washington Nationals, Willie Harris, represented the winning run.  The embattled veteran fought back from a 1-2 count to work the count full with two runners on and two outs, trailing 5-3 to the New York Mets.

What happened next was bizarre and inexplicable, and something that should not happen to a Major League player.

Mets reliever Francicsco Rodriguez -- who was struggling mightily in his appearance -- and shortstop Ruben Tejada put on a "daylight" play, and picked Roger Bernadina off at second base for the last out of the game.

"I don't know if I've seen one end that way," Manager Jim Riggleman said after the game.  "It's painful. But they made a great play and they got him."

The mistake gave the Mets a 5-3 win before 24,410 at Nationals Park, sent the Nats to their 20th loss in their last 29 games, and Nats fans into the streets shaking their heads at the latest ingenious method of demoralizing loss.

Washington's record at the half-way mark of the season is 35-46.

The Nationals trailed by two, so Bernadina's run was not the important one; Ian Desmond at first represented the tying run.  But the outfielder's gaffe took the bat out of Harris' hand, and he never did see the payoff pitch.

The baserunning blunder killed the excitment of a mounting comeback.  With one out, Ryan Zimmerman walked against Elmer Dessens.  After a Josh Willingham fly out, Ivan Rodriguez doubled to right, putting runners at second and third.

Mets Manager Jerry Manuel called on his closer Francisco Rodriguez, and Riggleman countered with lefty swinging Bernadina, pinch-hitting for Michael Morse.  The rookie came through with a single to right field, scoring Zimmerman.  Ian Desmond (2-for-4) followed with a single up the middle, bringing in Rodriguez, making the score 5-3.

The battle then ensued between K-Rod and Harris...until Bernadina strayed too far from the second and was nabbed, crushing the comeback.

It was a glaring lack of situational awareness by Bernadina, but par for the course for a team that gives away too many outs on the bases.

For most of the game, the Nats were kept in check by yet another average pitcher.  Jonathon Niese (W, 6-2) went seven innings and gave up just one earned run -- Willingham's 15th home run of the season -- on six hits and no walks, striking out eight.

On the other side of the ledger, Luis Atilano was roughed up, as he managed to just throw 3 2/3 innings and gave up five earned runs on four hits and two walks. 

Pudge Rodriguez consoles Luis Atilano after the destruction in the fourth. (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/Nats News Network)

His defense let him down in the fourth inning, as Ian Desmond made his MLB-high 20th error, and Michael Morse couldn't come up with a fly ball at the wall that went for a two-out, three-run triple.  Niese followed that up with a slicing double to left field, which knocked Atilano out of the game.

THE GOOD:  Willingham.  2-for-4 with a homer.  Nyjer Morgan and Desmond both had two hits as well.  Joel Peralta went three scoreless in relief.

THE BAD:  Adam Dunn, in the three-hole against a left-hander, went 0-for-4 with three Ks.  Morgan was thrown out stealing in the first inning, the MLB-worst 12th caught stealing of the season.

Morgan argues his out call at second. (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/Nats News Network)

THE UGLY:  Bernadina.  Inexcusable.  Indefensable.  Inexplicable.

NEXT GAME:  Saturday, it's the sixth day of Strasmas.  Stephen Strasburg (2-2, 2.27) faces knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (6-1, 2.98) at 4:10 pm.

NOTES:  The Nationals have signed Livan Hernandez' half-brother, Orlando Hernandez, to a minor league contract Friday

The elder Hernandez, 44, has compiled a 90-65 record and a 4.13 ERA in 10 seasons at the major league level. He last pitched in the big leagues with the New York Mets in 2007. That season, Hernandez went 9-5 with a 3.72 ERA.