The night started off well for the Nationals as they struck for three runs in the first four innings, entering the second half of their game with the Orioles holding a 3-1 lead.
Against most teams that would be a solid foundation for a win. Tanner Roark rarely gives up more than three runs and the Nats' bullpen ranks among the best in the majors.
The Orioles, however, are not your ordinary opposing lineup. They present danger one through nine, or in Monday's case one through eight. Few leads are safe, especially when they get a few looks at a given pitcher.
Sure enough, five runs for Baltimore in the seventh and eighth innings blew the game open and the Nationals lost 7-3. And afterwards, it was tough for manager Matt Williams to not look back at those early runs and wonder if the Nationals could have gotten more.
One of those runs came in the third inning off a sacrifice fly by Jayson Werth. The Nats right fielder came to the plate with no outs after Denard Span doubled and then moved to third on an Anthony Rendon single.
Werth drew a 3-0 count against Orioles starter Kevin Gausman, a noted delicacy for the veteran outfielder. Werth entered the at-bat 12-for-19 in his career at 3-0 with three home runs and 16 RBI. When he sees such a count, there is generally a green light.
As expected, Werth swung at the next pitch, a 96 mile per hour fastball. He got a good piece of it, though it soared straight to Orioles center fielder Adam Jones. Jones hopped to catch the ball on somewhat of a bad route, and Span scored easily.
Werth brought in a run, but he also gave the Nationals their first out of the inning. Adam LaRoche then flew out to right field, and Ian Desmond promptly grounded into a forceout at second.
Still, the Nationals got a run, but with two men on - one on third - with zero outs, they could have had more.
"Yeah, well, Jayson’s at-bat. It’s the sac fly, but it stops, potentially, that inning," Williams said.
"If he gets a hit there, then we roll. But he did his job. He knocked the guy in from third base. Sometimes a homer will stop the parade, too. But he did a nice job of getting the guy in from third with a sac fly. That one was potentially setting up for a big one, but that’s the way the game goes.”
Werth, of course, did nothing wrong in the at-bat. He scored a run to give the Nationals back their lead after Caleb Joseph tied it a frame before with a solo home run. But still, they could have had more.
The next inning the Nats also found themselves with runners on the corners and no outs. Wilson Ramos was at the plate, and he also brought in a run on an out. Ramos hit into a double play to allow Bryce Harper to score from third. The Nats went up 3-1, but never scored again.
The Orioles would chip away with a run of their own in the fifth inning to make it 3-2, before exploding for the five runs later on. The Nationals struck first, but Baltimore stayed in it and came away with the win.
"They are in first place for a reason. They can hit the ball and it showed tonight," Roark said.
"It kept in them in the game and obviously they ended up winning. But we face the Mets tomorrow, we got a big series against the Mets and we'll face them tomorrow."