Max Scherzer came back out for the seventh inning at 104 pitches with a 3-2 lead over the Baltimore Orioles and gave up a leadoff double by J.J. Hardy.
Washington's 31-year-old right-hander, who has been plagued by home runs in the second-half and had already given up a two-run blast in the first, retired the next two batters, however, setting up a big matchup with O's slugger Manny Machado with the tying run on third.
It went on for five tense pitches before Machado launched a 98 mph 2-2 fastball to left-center, sending a two-run blast into the Red Porch seats in Nationals Park to put the Orioles up, 4-3.
Machado's 30th home run of the season was the 17th Scherzer has surrendered in 80 IP in the second-half of his first season in D.C., after the Nats' starter gave up just 10 in 132 innings before the All-Star Break.
Matt Williams was asked after the Nationals dropped their second straight to the O's, with Machado's home run putting the visiting team up for good, if he'd considered going to another pitcher in the seventh?
"We had two guys up," Williams said. "We had a lefty and a righty up. The lefty is for [Chris] Davis, followed by the righty, but I'm not bringing anybody in in that situation to face Machado other than Max."
Scherzer gave everything he had and got beat on his 122nd pitch, a 98 mph heater, to a hitter who was 0 for 3 on the night and 0 for 14 against the veteran righty in their respective careers before the at bat.
Scherzer, on his 122nd pitch, which traveled 98 mph to home plate, then out over the left center field fence: pic.twitter.com/a2RMGRrC12— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) September 24, 2015
"Had him two strikes, two outs," Williams said, "worked through that inning after the leadoff double and left one out, over."
"The ball [Machado] hit is  mph," the second-year skipper continued.
"So [Scherzer's] strong. He's feeling good. He's making pitches. Had him two strikes, threw him a fastball up for a strike, swing and miss, and a slider down for a swing and miss, and left one out. He's a good hitter and he's also a good pitcher and just made a mistake."
"It's up and out, over," Williams said of Scherzer's 122nd pitch. "It's not on the corner down somewhere, and it's not a slider. He challenged him with the fastball and [Machado] got it."
"Manny had a great at bat," Bryce Harper told reporters after the loss.
"I think that's what All-Stars do. They go out there in those situations and 2-2 count and he hit a 98 mph fastball to left-center and punished it. That's a great at bat by Manny and he got us tonight."
Harper seemed less impressed with what happened the next time Machado stepped to the plate.
Jonathan Papelbon, after throwing a fastball up and in on Machado with his first pitch in the two-out at bat, came back inside and hit the O's slugger high on the left shoulder with a 93 mph 1-1 fastball.
In regards to the ejection, Papelbon said it doesn't matter if he hit Machado or not because "perception is reality."— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) September 24, 2015
Machado didn't like it. Papelbon didn't like that he was tossed. Harper's take?
"I mean, Manny freakin' hit a homer and walked it off and somebody drilled him," Harper said.
"I mean, it's pretty tired. So, it's one of those situations where it happens and I don't know, I'll probably get drilled tomorrow, so we'll see what happens."
Harper was asked if he really thought the Orioles would seek retribution in the series finale tomorrow afternoon?
"I don't know, it's part of the game, so I'm not sure," he said.
Williams didn't seem to think it was intentional on Papelbon's part.
"We've just double-switched there in an effort to have him pitch two innings," Williams said, "so he knows that coming into the ballgame. I don't think there's intent on hitting him on purpose. I know he wants to throw fastballs in.
"Threw him a good breaking for a strike and tried to come in again and it got away. But, no, I think he's simply trying to pitch in. It puts us in a tough spot when it's that quick of a hook because it's our closer in the game with the intent on us potentially tying it in the ninth and him going another inning, so no I don't think there's intent there."
How about Orioles' skipper Buck Showalter's take?
"About the same as the umpires," Showalter said in his post game interview on MASN. "Yeah, pretty obvious.
"I actually thought they were throwing at Chris [Davis] 3-1 earlier in the game. But it's part of it, you know. Believe me, I've got some real private thoughts about it, but I thought Manny handled himself well and took the high ground for the most part and responded to it about an inning earlier."
Tomorrow's series finale should be interesting. But the Nationals blew another opportunity tonight. They lost another late lead and did it on a night when the NL East-leading New York Mets dropped their second straight to the Atlanta Braves.