Apr 28, 2015, 10:23 AM EDT
ATLANTA — Amid the uproar over Andrelton Simmons’ questionable takeout slide that injured Yunel Escobar, the back-and-forth between the Nationals and Braves that ensued and then news of prospect A.J. Cole getting called up to make his major-league debut in place of the injured Max Scherzer, everyone seemed to gloss over a teeny little fact last night: The Nats lost yet another ballgame.
That’s six losses in a row, if you’ve lost count, and at 7-13 overall they now sit all alone in last place in the NL East, a staggering eight games behind the division-leading Mets.
As has been the case for three weeks now, the Nationals desperately need a spark, something that gets them going in a positive direction before it really is too late.
And maybe, just maybe, that spark came last night in the form of Simmons’ slide, Escobar’s injury and the Nationals’ reaction to the whole thing.
Consider what transpired after the controversial play in the bottom of the fifth…
— The Nats scored three runs, matching their total output from the previous 26 innings.
— Ian Desmond went in hard (but clean) to break up a double play at second base.
— Rafael Martin hit Simmons in the rear end with a first-pitch fastball that certainly seemed to have intent and led to warnings being issued to the rookie reliever and both dugouts.
That’s the most life the Nationals have shown in days.
“Maybe that’s what we needed a little bit, a little kick in the butt to get us going,” right fielder Bryce Harper said. “Hopefully, we go out there tomorrow and play with some attitude and win some ballgames.”
No, the Nationals didn’t win the game. And yes, they still committed four errors. And yes, their bullpen gave up three runs late.
But there appeared to be a different kind of vibe on the field and in the clubhouse after this one, certainly different than had been the case after their previous five losses. There was no complacency to be found.
“We’ve just got to take it upon ourselves to turn it around,” said Dan Uggla, former Brave and Marlin. “We can’t wait for things to start to go our way. We’ve just got to sack up, you know, and make it turn around. I think everyone in this clubhouse feels the same way. I know after playing against these guys for so long that we have the makeup to do it.”
Now, emotion only takes you so far. The Nationals need Cole to pitch well in his debut tonight. They need to be far more productive at the plate than they’ve been. They need their bullpen to put up zeroes for a change. And they certainly need to play a clean ballgame in the field.
But perhaps a little emotion can help in those problem areas. And if the Nationals can somehow find a way to channel the emotions they displayed late in last night’s game and afterward into something positive, perhaps this can serve as the spark they so desperately need.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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