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Missed opportunities

Sep 22, 2015, 11:39 PM EDT

USA Today

Of all the reasons why the Nationals have fallen short of expectations in 2015, of all the persistent problems that have stood in their way, the continued squandering of opportunities has loomed as large as any.

Time and time again the schedule has favored the Nats, or their opponent has gifted them breaks on a given night. When this long and trying season finally comes to an end, one thing no one will be able to say is that the Nats were not given chances to capitalize on the misfortune and mistakes of others.

On Tuesday night it was a loss by the New York Mets that opened the door for a chance to gain precious ground in the NL East. It was three errors committed by the Baltimore Orioles and five walks issued by their starting pitcher, Ubaldo Jimenez. All those factors came into play, yet the Nationals still couldn’t take advantage and make something of their circumstances.

Those fortuitous breaks are the kinds of things that make losses hurt even more when you add them all up. It’s not just a defeat, one game out of 162. It’s what could have been if they didn’t blow such a favorable chance.

“Tonight [the Mets loss] didn’t matter because we didn’t win,” Bryce Harper said.

“Those are the opportunities you want to take and we couldn’t do it today,” Jose Lobaton added. “We tried, but we just couldn’t do it.”

Jimenez was effectively wild on Tuesday night, somehow overcoming five walks to allow only one run (0 ER) on three hits. He and the Orioles gave the Nats their best opportunity in the fourth with a pair of errors and an infield single.

The first error allowed Clint Robinson to reach second with no outs. The infield single was hit by Ian Desmond and it was aided by the usually pristine glove of Manny Machado, as he couldn’t get the ball out in time to throw to first. The second error was on a groundball hit by Jose Lobaton directly to Jonathan Schoop at second and it scored the Nats’ only run.

That sequence left runners at first and second with one out and pitcher Gio Gonzalez at the plate. Gio laid down a bunt that was hit softly enough for catcher Caleb Joseph to fire to third and start a rally-killing double play.

“It’s a good play by their catcher,” manager Matt Williams said. “If that bunts a little further out, the pitcher’s got to field it and the play is at first. Or if it’s a little to the right side, the first baseman is gonna go to first. But it was out in front enough where Joseph could get to it and Machado made a nice turn to get it back over.”

Bryce Harper drew three walks on Tuesday night and set a single season record for the Nationals along the way. But afterwards he could only look back on one pitch he got from Jimenez in third inning as a missed opportunity.

“I missed my pitch. I missed the 1-2 sinker. I probably should have hit it out of the yard, but I popped up to second. That’s on me. If I want a hit, then that’s the pitch I gotta hit. Instead of being 1-for-1, I was 0-for-1 with three walks. I can’t miss my pitches,” he said.

The Nationals have 12 games remaining on their schedule, but the New York Mets have a magic number of only six. The likelihood of their season ending prematurely is becoming more and more real by the day. It’s a near inevitability they will be watching the playoffs from home this October, all wondering what could have been if nights like Tuesday had just gone the way they should have.

  1. arwiv - Sep 22, 2015 at 11:57 PM

    Mets just need to go 5-3 to pop the corks….the nats are going to lose at least 1 more time before the mets series. I wouldnt be surprised if they lost this baltimore series now that roark is going instead of zimmerman.

  2. breakbad1 - Sep 23, 2015 at 12:05 AM

    A lifeless, worthless, spineless, gutless baseball team. Put this bunch in the NL Central and they lose a 100 games.

    • jfmii - Sep 23, 2015 at 8:10 AM

      Spineless? Gutless? Get a grip

  3. Casey Burtenshaw - Sep 23, 2015 at 1:01 AM

    Tonight was the first game I went to this season, as I work 7 days a week so getting free is hard. I took off work three weeks ago because it was my parents were paying and taking me for my birthday. Getting my whole family there and girlfriend was a lot of work and money, and to see such a stereotypical 2015 nats loss just sucked. I guess I can’t complain to much because the last game we’d gone to was Jzimms no hitter.

    • nats106 - Sep 23, 2015 at 8:42 AM

      Yeah, sorry Casey. It’s tough to have that one day off with family and have them once again stink up the joint. They really have become almost unwatchable. I only watched the final inning last night, and sadly, they didn’t disappoint me.

      I just hope you didn’t have to sit near any Orioles fans. And happy belated Birthday, as well.

  4. natsfan1a - Sep 23, 2015 at 7:54 AM

    On another note, “You should always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise, they won’t come to yours.” Yogi Berra R.I.P.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Sep 23, 2015 at 8:30 AM

      Well said.

    • nats106 - Sep 23, 2015 at 8:45 AM

      And on another note, “it ain’t over til it’s over”.

      But then, he hasn’t been watching these guys play.

  5. JayB - Sep 23, 2015 at 8:46 AM

    At what point is there enough data on this team and specifically our “core guys” to have Rizzo make changes?

    Ubaldo Jimenez – shut them down…..made Werth and Rendon….made the whole roster other than Bryce look like they were overmatched…..time and time again this team wilts under pressure…..they would rather lose looking cool than lose letting it all hang out…..that is a really bad team personality trait and one Rizzo needs to address before this team is going to win anything.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Sep 23, 2015 at 9:01 AM

      To answer your initial question: Probably at the end of the season when contracts run out, players from other teams become free agents, etc. Probably not with 10 or so games to go in this regular season.

  6. JayB - Sep 23, 2015 at 9:57 AM

    E in O…..what is the excuse for not making changes last year at this time? Always something with Rizzo to hold on way way to long to his guys.

    • trfwans - Sep 23, 2015 at 10:14 AM

      Cruising toward a division title would seem to be a pretty good excuse for not making changes last year at this time, wouldn’t it?

    • bowdenball - Sep 23, 2015 at 10:22 AM

      I think the “excuse” for not making changes after last season was probably the fact that they won 96 games last year and won the division by 17 games? Maybe that was it? Just a thought.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Sep 23, 2015 at 12:10 PM

      (a) What trfwans and bowdenball said.

      (b) They did make changes, acquiring Max Scherzer, Yunel Escobar, Joe Ross, and Trea Turner (among others). Of those, Messrs. Scherzer, Escobar, and Ross added a total of 7 WAR to the team.

      • JayB - Sep 23, 2015 at 12:18 PM

        Keeping Storen knowing you did not trust him….with good reasons is inexcusable. If he was moved last year after the season this team would be walking into the playoffs right now.

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