This was a typical game for the Nats in many ways, and every single one of them was bad. The Nats put the leadoff man on in seven of the game’s nine innings, but only scored in one of those innings. Coincidentally, they scored in one of the two innings in which the leadoff hitter made an out. The Nats were 1-10 with runners in scoring position, and while every ball seemed hard-hit, almost all of them found their way into an Atlanta Brave’s glove. They also failed to support Stephen Strasburg, whose NL-worst average runs of support (2.64) dropped even further, and he got a no-decision despite an excellent outing. The Nats now trail Atlanta by 13.5 games, a deficit only three teams have ever overcome. The 1951 New York Giants trailed the Brooklyn Dodgers by 13.5 games on August 11th and came back to win by one game, the 1914 Boston Braves overcame a 15-game deficit on July 6th, and the New York Yankees came back from 14 games back on July 18th. As you can see, the Nats’ odds of winning the division are roughly nil. However, they are still just seven games out of the second wild card, a somewhat realistic hole to climb out of. There’s no point in worrying about Atlanta anymore; it’s over. But for the playoffs in general it isn’t. They won’t make it playing like this, but there’s still a chance.
Most Important Nationals Hit: Wilson Ramos‘ single (+16.6%)
After Mike Minor had kept the Nats lineup under control for five innings, he started showing some cracks in the sixth. The Nats trailed 2-1 and Ryan Zimmerman led the inning off with a single. Ramos followed him up with a single and put runners on the corners with no outs. The Nats would manage to tie the game from there, with an Anthony Rendon sacrifice fly, but Minor held them without a hit in the inning after the first two.
Most Important Nationals Pitch: Justin Upton‘s solo home run (-26.1%)
Tyler Clippard pitched the eighth inning for the Nats, hoping to keep the game tied and give the Nats a shot to take the lead in the bottom of the eighth. He had a 1.85 ERA, among the best for NL relievers, but Upton beat him on a pitch over the plate and sent it deep to give the Braves their eventually final 3-2 lead. The homer was the fifth in five games for Upton, and the second allowed for Clippard in three appearances. He has allowed just five home runs all season.
Champ of the Game: Rendon (+28.9%) had a good game in what has been a tough previous month for him. He has scuffled since his hot start post-callup, hitting under .200 since July, but was 2-3 with a sacrifice fly and an RBI. Upton (+30.3%) had his pivotal home run, but excelled overall as well: he was 3-4 with an RBI and two runs scored.
Chump of the Game: Clippard (-21.4%) committed no other crime than throwing one bad pitch that a very hot hitter took advantage of, but it was enough to doom the Nats. Braves catcher Brian McCann (-16.2%) was 0-4 with two strikeouts.
Note: Apologies for the lateness of this post; my internet experienced a frustrating hiccup.