The Washington Nationals' 2015 campaign didn't end last night. But it sure felt like it did. After taking a 7-1 lead in the sixth inning and knocking New York Mets' starter Matt Harvey out of the game, the Nats gave it all back in a brutal 12-batter, six-walk, six-run top of the seventh inning which ended with the score tied at 7-7. No one could throw strikes. It seemed like it would never end.
When it was actually over, however, after Kirk Nieuwenhuis took Jonathan Papelbon deep for a solo home run in the top of the eighth, and the Mets held on for an 8-7 win, the Nationals had given away another game, and they found themselves 6.0 games back in the NL East with just 24 games to play.
It was a crushing defeat.
"When you're ahead 7-1 you expect to win a ballgame," Bryce Harper told reporters after the loss.
"They fought back and had some good at bats. There's nothing really we can do about it now. They're doing what they're doing to put runs on the board and having great at bats, so they beat us today."
So how do the Nationals move on? What's the mentality going forward?
"Game over," Harper said. "It's over right now. So we're trying to just worry about tomorrow and see if we can go ahead and have some good at bats against [Jacob] deGrom and hopefully pull the trigger early."
"Jacob deGrom doesn't care," Matt Williams said this morning, in discussing moving on from the loss during an MLB Network Radio interview.
"We'll gave to go out and execute and do things well if we're going to have a chance to beat him tonight. But my job, ultimately, my job, is to support our guys. I have confidence in every one of those guys in the clubhouse."
Blake Treinen, Felipe Rivero and Drew Storen struggled to record the final out of the seventh last night, with the Mets scoring all six runs with two down, but Williams said it's important for the pitchers to know he's confident in their ability to go back out there and get outs.
"Any time I've got Drew Storen on the mound, I'm confident," he said.
"Any time Felipe Rivero is on the mound, I'm confident. As we all are. We've just got to continue to let them know that. I've been the guy -- we all have -- we've all been the guy that has stood out there on the island and had it not go well for us. So you have two choices at that point. You can think about it and dwell on it ... or you can pick yourself up by the bootstraps and move forward. And that's my intention going to the ballpark today."
"It didn't work out the way we wanted it to work out last night. but it is what it is," the second-year skipper said.
"So what do you do? You talk about it, you worry about it or you move on. Those are your two choices. So we'll do the latter and see if we can go get those guys today and take this last one and then we head out on the road right after the game."
Storen, in particular, has struggled in recent weeks, allowing 15 runs, 13 earned, in his last 14 appearances and 13 IP.
Williams discussed Storen's struggles last night, while expressing confidence that the 28-year-old right-hander can bounce back.
"For me it's been not throwing the ball where he wants to," he said. "Breaking balls up in the strike zone have been part of the issue. And tonight he just missed. Just missed with those pitches."
"He's a professional pitcher and been asked to close very tight games for us," Williams continued. "So he's confident and we're confident in him. So we'll get him back out there as quickly as possible."
How do the Nationals endure this as a team? How does Williams, who was booed by some fans as he left his post game press conference, move forward?
"Well there [are] times when things go well," he said, "and you understand that there's times on the other side of that coin. So, what do you do? Well you pick yourself up by the bootstraps and you go. You don't have a choice at this point. So, in all those guys' lives and in mine in the clubhouse, there have been good times and bad times. Certainly learn from the bad, appreciate the good, taking nothing for granted and come with a fresh attitude tomorrow and go to work."
Here's the lineup for tonight's series finale with the Mets:
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