The Nats did just enough to avoid disaster in the four game series at Atlanta, splitting with the Braves. They remain seven games back of Atlanta in the division, but fell to three games back of the Wild Card, with 28 games remaining in the season.
It's sooooooooo effing infuriating, however, that the two losses could have easily been wins. I missed nearly all of Wednesday's 5-3 loss in the first game of the double-header. But apparently the Nats ran themselves out of several opportunities to get back in the game. Not only did Guillen get his ass picked off, stupid Frank put on a hit and run with Vinny Castilla on base and Garry Bennett at the plate. Now I'm not one who thinks a hit and run is the wrong call 99% of the time. But Vinny can't run! It's that simple. And as nice a guy as Gary is, he can't really hit either. Stupid, stupid.
Last night, the Nats came back from a 7-1 deficit to tie the game. Old school Nats, right? I got my hopes way up that this would be a June-style Nats win, snatching a win out of the jaws of defeat in one of the biggest games of the year. But no. Andruw Jones homered to lead off the Braves half of the tenth, and just like that, it all turned for the worse.
Again, Washington ran themselves out of several opportunities. In the fourth, Vinny forgot how many out there were and got doubled off first on a fly ball to center. In the fifth, good ol' Cheeseburglar Baerga tried to go join Marlon Byrd on third base. (Perhaps he thought Marlon was packin' cheeseburgers. Har, har, har!)
I just now read St. Barry's game story. He puts it very well, as always. "Clearly, with September now upon us, treading water no longer suffices in the woolly, wacky, five-deep National League wild-card race. Although the Nationals emerged from this four-game series against the best team in their division with a split -- a solid showing, by most accounts -- they still came away with a net loss of a half-game in the standings and the feeling that something very meaningful was lost."
Treading water no longer suffices. That's a great way to put it. Three games out of a playoff spot with 28 games remaining is not an insurmountable obstacle. But almost all the teams ahead of us play each other too, dampening the opportunity to gain significant ground. The Nats have to win series -- even sweep some -- in order to push themselves to the top of the pack.