Three games, three leads, three losses. The Washington Nationals (33-43) jumped out to a 3-0 lead n yesterday afternoon's game before yielding four unanswered runs in their third consecutive loss to the woeful Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles (23-52) had lost 13 straight series entering their three contests with the Nationals; however, Washington proved to be Baltimore's perfect rebound opponent. Jeremy Guthrie kept the Orioles close with his first quality start in over three weeks, and Miguel Tejada drove in Corey Patterson in the bottom of the eighth to hand Tyler Clippard his fifth loss and complete the series sweep.
The theme of this series was Washington's inability to close. In the three games the Nationals took leads of 6-0, 5-0, and 3-0 yet still managed to drop three one-run contests. In such a closely contested series, fundamentals and details are often the difference between victory and defeat. In this case - as has been the case throughout the entire season -the Nationals were done in, at least in part, by their continually porous defense. Washington committed five errors in three games (four in the first alone) which led to five unearned Oriole runs. Shortstop Ian Desmond and second baseman Cristian Guzman each made two errors in Friday's loss, their ninth and eighteenth on the season, respectively. Unfortunately, removing them from the lineup did not result in the defensive improvement manager Jim Riggleman and the Nats had hoped for. Adam Kennedy made a throwing error trying to complete a double play that led to the game-tying run in the fifth. Once again the Nationals were let down by their defense, the worst in baseball.
The road now does not get any easier. With the conclusion of interleague play (in which Washington went just 5-13), the Nationals must now turn to the remainder of their National League and divisional schedules. After traveling to Atlanta tonight to begin a three-game series against the division-leading Braves, the second place Mets come to the nation's capital. Following consecutive battles with the class of the NL East, the Nationals will play host to the NL West-leading San Diego Padres, with the second place San Francisco Giants just behind. The Nationals must shore up their play in a hurry in order to compete with the best that the National League has to offer.