Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Ivan Rodriguez's words couldn't help Tyler Clippard or Ian Desmond tonight.
So this 8-6 setback to the Mets, featuring an eighth-inning meltdown of epic proportions, stings. It's the kind of loss last year's team grew to expect, and the kind of loss this year's team never believes is possible.
But it happened. The boxscore spells it out in all its gory details. The three runs allowed by Brian Bruney, followed by the three more runs allowed by Tyler Clippard. Throw in an Ian Desmond error and a bases-loaded walk by Miguel Batista, and you've got the worst loss of this young season.
You've also got the first opportunity this year to find out what these Nationals are made of. Will they allow a crushing loss like this to linger, or will they brush it off and return tomorrow afternoon with renewed purpose?
To a man, every player inside the visitors clubhouse at Citi Field tonight insisted they'll come back strong tomorrow.
"We will. That's what this club is all about. We fight," Clippard said. "Yeah, it hurts right now. But we'll sleep it off, and tomorrow we'll be ready to go. It's a 162-game season. This is going to happen."
Sure, it's going to happen to every team a couple of times every season. But these are the kind of losses that left the 2009 Nationals shell-shocked and often led to lengthy losing streaks. One crushing loss led to another, until the momentum was so strong in a downhill direction, it was impossible to make it stop.
To date, the 2010 Nationals have exuded a different personality, one of professionalism and togetherness. They still haven't dropped more than two games in a row this season. Their three previous worst losses (all in 10 innings) were immediately followed the next day with victories, giving everyone confidence that tonight's shocker will be a mere bump in the road and nothing more.
"Absolutely," Desmond said. "This team has been through so much adversity the last couple years. We lost, I don't know the number, but 10 in a row I'm assuming, 20 in a row. One loss isn't a big deal. We'll bounce back."
(For the record, the 2009 Nats' worst losing streak was eight games, set from Aug. 28-Sept. 5. They did, however, have five losing streaks of at least six games.)
So tomorrow afternoon's series finale suddenly looms large for Washington. A strong, winning effort makes tonight's game a footnote. Another shaky performance makes tonight's game the start of a downward trend, as the stench of this loss lingers.
"I think the lingering effect is like momentum: It depends on your next day's starter," Jim Riggleman said. "Your next day's starter will dictate whether there's a lingering effect or not. ... I know our guys will come out ready to play tomorrow. It's a tough loss. We'll agonize over it a little bit tonight and then hopefully get right back after it tomorrow and win a ballgame."
You heard your manager, Craig Stammen. Your team's counting on you. Go get 'em.