THE RESULT: There were a few moments in the Washington Nationals 8-4 loss to the New York Mets that were key to the outcome of the game. None, however, were bigger than a dropped routine fly ball by a 14-year veteran.
Holding a tenuous 4-3 lead in the sixth inning, Carlos Beltran blasted a Tom Gorzelanny pitch to deep left field in a bid for his third home run of the game. It fell just short of the warning track though, where Jerry Hairston camped under it for what should have been the second out of the inning. But whether he was distracted or heard footsteps, Hairston flat out dropped the ball.
Two batters later Mets 1B Ike Davis made the Nats pay for the mistake with a two-run triple and the Mets never looked back.
Of course he did.
The loss drops the Nats to 3-5, last in the N.L. East. And though they've only been blown out one time this season, the losses -- along with the errors -- continue to mount.
Gorzelanny (L, 0-1, 8.44), making his first start of the season, certainly had his moments in this one. He struck out a Nats' season-high eight Mets batters. He only gave up four hits and two walks in his 5 1/3 innings. But twice he failed to bear down when things went wrong for him, only compounding his misery.
The Davis triple was the decisive blow, but back in the first inning he allowed a borderline strike call by homeplate umpire Dan Bellino to get in his head, and on the next pitch he grooved one to Beltran who promptly deposited it about 15 rows back in left field for a three run shot.
And when the Nationals had their chances on the bases, they squandered them. As a team, they went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position, leaving eight men on. Center fielder Rick Ankiel left seven on himself.
In the eighth inning and the Nats trailing 6-4, Michael Morse singled and Wilson Ramos walked against Mets reliever Bobby Parnell to lead off the inning. After a visit by the Mets pitching coach, Parnell then struck out Ankiel and Danny Espinosa and pinch-hitter Matt Stairs grounded out to second. Just another wasted opportunity in a night full of them.
It's a plague for this team, and while some may say the team average hitting with runners will even out, it's an extension of the poor on-base skills too many batters on this team suffer from. It's also why manager Jim Riggleman feels he has to put so many plays on when he does get runners on. He just doesn't have the talent to let things work themselves out. He has to try to maximize every single opportunity.
Last night, that Nats scored all their runs off home runs, a three-run shot by Danny Espinosa and a solo homer from Ian Desmond. It's going to become a familiar theme, because there just aren't enough tablesetters, and when Jayson Werth has a tough night like he did tonight, there just aren't enough runners on base.
THE GOOD: Ryan Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos had two hits apiece. Espinosa was 1-for-3 with a three-run home run. Desmond hit a solo shot in the fifth.
THE BAD: Jayson Werth went 0-for-4, striking out twice and hitting into a rally killing double-play.
THE UGLY: Ankiel. He had a very bad night at the plate, leaving seven runners on. If he come though in one of those situations, it's a different game.
THE STATS: Eight hits, four walks. 1-for-9 with RISP, 8 LOB, 1 GIDP. E: Hairston (1).
NEXT GAME: Sunday at New York Mets at 1:10 pm. Jason Marquis (0-0, 2.84) v. Chris Young (1-0, 1.69)
NATS NOTES: Brian Broderick, making his second appearance out of the pen, gave up two earned runs on three hits and a walk in 1 2/3 innings, raising his ERA to 23.14.
The Nats are hitting .222/.322/.330. They rank 15th, 14th and 9th in those categories in the National League. They are 12th in the league in runs scored at 29.