That slider down the middle of the plate in the seventh inning cost the Nationals extra breathing room in the standings. José Berríos helped, too.
Aníbal Sánchez threw a center-cut slider to Mitch Garver to foil a night of mastery Tuesday. He allowed three hits to that point. One was a double to the previous batter, Eddie Rosario. Sánchez’s 0-1 pitch to Garver -- who had 29 homers in just 277 at-bats coming into the game -- ended up deep in the left field seats. Twins led, 2-0. It was enough during a 4-0 Washington loss.
Berríos made sure it was enough with one of the stranger lines possible. He threw 94 pitches. They produced just four swinging strikes, but 20 called strikes and 21 foul balls. Only 18 balls were put in play.
Being shut down in Minnesota dropped the Nationals to 2-6 in their last eight games. It’s their worst stretch since going 2-5 at the end of July, and the repercussions are becoming real.
Philadelphia won on Tuesday to gain a game. So did the New York Mets. Milwaukee won, too. Chicago lost, 9-8, in extra innings at San Diego. Reliever Steve Cishek delivered a walk-off walk to the Padres.
The Cubs remain 2 ½ games behind the Nationals. Milwaukee is 3 ½ games back, and just a game behind Chicago, though it lost reigning MVP Christian Yelich for the year Wednesday because of a broken kneecap. The Phillies are 4 ½ back. Arizona is five back, the Mets 5 ½.
Washington’s recent recoil has put the division title out of the question. It’s also beginning to influence its wild-card chances. Fivethirtyeight.com dropped the Nationals’ postseason chances to 91 percent following Tuesday’s loss. Alarming? No. Down rapidly the last week? Yes.
Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin are up next in Minnesota. The Twins send two mediocre pitchers to the mound. A salvageable series still exists in the Midwest. The Nationals just need to grab it.
MORE NATIONALS NEWS:
- Yelich Out: Twins' Yelich breaks knee cap
- Big Bucks: Two factors to consider for Stephen Strasburg's player-option
- Slow Ride: Sanchez, Corbin take it slow