"I'm not stupid; you can play a lot of close games and be a bad ballclub. But the difference between us and the other clubs is not that wide a gap...We just made some mistakes."
—Interim manager Jim Riggleman after Sunday's loss, Sept. 27, 2009.
The Atlanta Braves rode into the nation's capital and rolled out with three more wins, sweeping the homestanding Washington Nationals by scores of 4-1, 11-5, and 6-3.
The Nats are now 52-103 and 6-17 in September.
Sunday saw a tied game in the ninth inning turn ugly in the 10th, as the Braves scored three times off closer Mike MacDougal.
With one out in the 10th, MacDougal (L, 1-1, 4.59) walked Nate McLouth and hit Martin Prado with a 96-mph fastball. Chipper Jones and Brian McCann then hit the back-to-back choppers. Jones beat his out to load the bases, and McCann's turned into an RBI groundout.
Omar Infante followed with a two-run single to center to score Prado and Jones, giving the Braves their 10th straight road win. Mike Gonzalez (5-4) picked up the win and Rafael Soriano pitched the 10th for his 27th save.
All this happened hours after the Nats took a 2-0 lead on solo home runs by Ryan Zimmerman (32) and Josh Willingham (24) off starter Derek Lowe in the first inning. Mike Morse added a solo shot in the fourth.
Saturday, the Nats made three errors and gave up a combined 18 hits and walks, but were only trailing 6-4 entering the ninth inning. But the Braves got five runs off MacDougal, Ron Villone, and Logan Kensing to blow the game up.
Rookie Tommy Hanson (W, 11-4, 2.98) struck out seven in seven innings for the win. Garrett Mock (L, 3-10, 5.91) was hammered again (six runs in five innings) for the loss.
The Nats made things close for a while on Mike Morse's pinch-hit three-run home run.
Friday night, Javier Vazquez threw a complete game three-hitter, and the Nats fell 4-1. Vazquez retired 11 in a row at one point, struck out seven and only walked one batter all night. The lone Nats run came on a Josh Bard solo home run.
John Lannan (L, 9-13, 3.93) was the hard-luck loser. He went seven innings and gave up two runs (none earned) on six hits and three walks, striking out six.
Washington made two errors in the infield, one each by Ian Desmond and Pete Orr, that led to two first inning runs.
The only scoring the Nats did in the three-game sweep was via the home run, a good/bad sign. It's good that they are still hitting home runs; it's bad that they can't score when they don't.
And there usually isn't anyone on base when they hit them.
Lannan. He continues to go out there and keep his team in the game, regardless if the guys behind him can't pick the ball up.
The defense and bullpen. The Nats proved over the weekend why they are last in both categories in the major leagues.
Jim Riggleman. The only thing Nats fans have left to cheer for is Adam Dunn's 40th home run of the season, yet Riggleman left Dunn out of the starting lineup Sunday and failed to use him as a pinch hitter in any of the late inning opportunities presented.
Unless Dunn is hurt, and the team did not issue any statement to the effect, then Riggleman really dropped the ball.
Mercifully, the last week of the season is upon us. The Nats host the New York Mets for a three-game series starting tonight at 7:05 pm.
Ross Detwiler (0-6, 5.71) has another chance to get his first big league win against Nelson Figueroa (2-7, 4.88), who took offense last season to the Nats cheering from the dugout, calling them "little girls." Should be fun.