The Nationals lost a close ballgame Friday night, giving up the winning run in the seventh inning.
Really, who could have seen that coming?
It's a broken record now, but one the Nationals can't shut off. They just keep going around and around in circles, making the same mistakes, losing in the same fashion every single night, their slim postseason hopes becoming slimmer every time.
Yes, their odds of making the playoffs, which actually were 25 percent at the start of the week, are now down to 1.4 percent following Friday night's games (per Fangraphs). That's because four consecutive losses — combined with five consecutive wins by the Mets — have turned a 4-game deficit in the NL East into an 8 1/2-game deficit. Yes, the Nats have lost 4 1/2 games in the standings in five days.
And those games were all lost in exactly the same manner: From a staff that gave up the decisive runs late. Nationals pitchers have surrendered 15 runs in the seventh inning or later over their last four games.
Friday night's 2-1 loss in Miami wasn't exactly the kind of meltdown we saw earlier in the week against New York, but there were troublesome signs nonetheless.
Casey Janssen entered in the bottom of the seventh of a tie game and proceeded to give up the winning run. The beleaguered right-hander immediately got into trouble when he fell behind 3-1 in the count to J.T. Realmuto, then left a fastball up in the zone and watched as the Marlins catcher lined it to left field for a double.
Next came a play that might as well show up on the cover of the Nationals' 2015 Video Yearbook: Janssen fielded Ichiro Suzuki's popped-up bunt, passed up a sure out at first base and threw late to third base, where Yunel Escobar didn't even bother to attempt to apply the tag. That put Realmuto in position to score on a subsequent sac fly, with Bryce Harper's throw to the plate way off-line.
At the plate, the Nationals squandered what few opportunities they had, going 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. They managed just one unearned run against six Marlins pitchers,
Low-scoring games can sometimes make a team look lifeless when it really wasn't. Sometimes, good pitching just does that to a club.
This, though, did appear to be a legitimately lifeless performance from the Nationals, not just at the plate but in the field as well. And that could be a disturbing sign for a team that mathematically remains in the race but realistically knows that ship sailed earlier in the week.
The Nationals still have 22 games to play. There are some potentially major decisions that could hinge on how they perform during these 22 games, none more significant than the fate of their manager.
If Friday night's showing in Miami was an indication of what's to come, these final weeks of a disappointing season could be especially difficult to watch.
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