The Washington Nationals took a 9-0 lead over their closest rival in the N.L. East with their staff ace on the mound.
The Atlanta Braves never surrendered, even when it would have been easy to give guys the rest of the night off in the middle of the summer. They knocked Stephen Strasburg out of the game with a two-run homer and punished every single reliever Nats manager Davey Johnson brought into the game to take an 11-10 victory and cut the division lead to 2 1/2 games.
Blame for this one can be spread out across the entire roster, and the manager himself.
Strasburg was not sharp at all. He chased his fastball command all night and needed 103 pitches to get through 5 1/3 innings. Frankly, he was lucky to get that far in the game. Strasburg completely ran out of gas during the sixth inning, allowing a two-run home run to Brian McCann, then another single and double before being mercifully relieved.
It didn’t get any better, as Michael Gonzalez allowed both inherited runners to score on a Martin Prado two-out double. Gonzalez threw a scoreless seventh inning, but it was only a pre-cursor to the eventual collapse.
Drew Storen, making his second appearance in as many days after being activated from the disabled list, did not retire either batter he faced in the eighth, and Sean Burnett allowed both those runners — and two more — to score. Then Tyler Clippard, who has been flirting with disaster for a week, finally hooked up with that cruel mistress, and blew the save by giving up two more runs in the ninth.
How it happened was really immaterial.
Danny Espinosa tied the game in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings, but it only prolonged the suffering.
Tom Gorzelanny, usually the first guy out of the pen in a blowout, pitched a scoreless tenth, but could not continue that proficiency in the 11th, as Paul Janish (hitting .167) singled to plate Dan Uggla, who reached on a Ryan Zimmerman throwing error and advanced to third on a passed ball by the Nats fifth string catcher.
The collapse was complete.
In the end, it’s just one game out of 162. But man, it was ugly.