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Mistakes, errors, dropped pops finally hurt Nationals in loss to Braves in SunTrust Park

Getting 27 quick outs. Davey Martinez preaches it. Avoid giving opposing teams 28-29 outs and things will go much better...

MLB: Washington Nationals at Baltimore Orioles Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

While the Washington Nationals’ offense was struggling in April, Davey Martinez continued to offer the same advice to his players: The hits would come eventually, he said, but if you do all the little things right, and avoid giving away outs, you can stay competitive while you wait for the bats to heat up.

“We constantly talk about the quick 27 outs. ‘Let’s get a quick 27 outs,’” Martinez explained.

“That’s what we preach all the time and if you can do that you have a good change to win and compete every day. Don’t give the team an extra out or two outs, because that’s when you tend to put yourself in a hole, and they know that, we talk about that every day. These little things that I know — like I said, we’re going to start hitting, but what I would like is for them to come out every day, compete and run the bases hard and play good defense.”

Over the last two nights, however, a tightly-contested 2-0 win over the Baltimore Orioles, and 4-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves, the Nationals have made mistakes that caused trouble.

In Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Sean Doolittle took the mound up by two in the ninth and gave up a single to left by Craig Gentry in the first at bat, but the Nats’ closer got a pop to right off Adam Jones’ bat that should have been an out. It fell in for a hit.

Washington Nationals v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Wilmer Difo got there, sprinting over to the line in short right, but overrunning it.

It fell behind Difo and dropped in front of a charging Bryce Harper, who pulled up when it looked like Difo had it.

Doolittle took it in stride, picked Gentry off second when he tried to break for third, and got the next two outs to end it.

“I didn’t want to run into Difo,” Harper said when asked about the play.

“We were playing pretty deep in the outfield,” Martinez explained when asked what exactly happened on the dropped pop, and whose ball it was.

“We just want to catch the ball, whether Difo catches it or Harper catches it, it happened that we didn’t catch it, and so we’ve just got to move on.

“Doolittle accepted it, moved on, and got the outs he needed.”

“That’s what Doolittle does,” Martinez added. “They pick each other up. It was a tough play,[Difo] overran the ball a little bit.”

With the score tied at 2-2 in the third in the series opener in Atlanta last night, Braves’ first baseman Freddie Freeman hit a double to right with Ozzie Albies on first base, and Bryce Harper’s throw in to second one-hopped the bag and got by Trea Turner, allowing Albies to keep going around third to score the eventual winning run.

Albies was only on base because he reached on a pop to short left that both Juan Soto and Turner converged on and let drop when Turner pulled up short and Soto didn’t. quite. get. there.

What went wrong on the play?

“Just communication, that’s all it was, communication,” Martinez said.

“I kind of forgot in my head how far he had to run,” Turner said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, noting that Soto did start deep in left.

“And when the ball went so high, I figured I ran so far I was like: ‘OK, Juan’s going to have that.’ Then by the time I looked at him, I felt like I should have had the ball at that point. That’s on me. I need to know where those guys are playing and make sure I catch every ball that I can catch.”

“It happens,” Roark said when asked about the dropped pop. “Errors happen. I don’t make perfect pitches every time, so it’s just one of those things. Nothing you can do about it, so move on to the next guys.”

“I always say this,” Martinez added, “little things, missed a pop-up, Trea missed the ball that allowed Albies to score, so those things hurt when you’re giving other teams 28-29 outs.”