Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Adam Dunn doubled in the fifth but struck out three times after that.
"That game, I think it shows you who we are," Harris said. "We're never going to give up. We're right there."
This upbeat take, remember, came after the Nationals lost a game they very easily could have won. They stranded 15 men on base. They had three more called out on the bases, two at the plate. If they did just one or two little things better, they'd have been celebrating a hard-earned victory over the two-time NL West champs.
But a Nationals club accustomed to losing and losing and losing over the last four years is starting to look at its situation in a new light. This wasn't a moral victory by any means. But the attitude inside the home clubhouse following a game like this would have been far different in 2008 or 2009.
"As far as the way we feel in here, it's aggravating, because we expect to win," Harris said. "We're not in rebuild-mode in our mind. We expect to win now."
Sometimes, blowout losses when your starting pitcher can't get out of the first inning are easier to swallow. What can you do? Nip-and-tuck losses like this, boasting all sorts of defensive wizardry, quality pitching and aggressive baserunning are harder to accept.
"Oh yeah, most definitely it's a little aggravating," Nyjer Morgan said.
Morgan was front-and-center for several of the afternoon's key moments, some positive, some negative. His RBI single in the eighth off Dodgers closer Jonathan Bronxton tied the game, and his double to right off Carlos Monasterios in the 13th nearly tied it again.
But this game will be remembered more for Morgan's questionable baserunning in the sixth, when he attempted to stretch a double into a triple but in the process wiped out a run by Craig Stammen.
Because Morgan was tagged out at third before Stammen crossed the plate, the run didn't count, and the Nationals failed to take a 3-2 lead they might have held to win the game in regulation.
"I was being aggressive, but not intelligent," Morgan said. "My thought was, they were going to try to shoot Stammen out. I should've stopped about halfway, but I was locked in. I had tunnel vision, and not understanding the situation there. I have to be a little bit smarter there in that situation."
Members of the Nationals coaching staff agreed. If Morgan was going to try to draw a throw to third, he should have pulled up and gotten himself into a rundown, buying time for Stammen to cross the plate.
"I don't know what he's thinking, but if they throw the ball home, he walks into third," third base coach Pat Listach said. "If they throw the ball to third, he's got to stop, let him cross the plate first."
Morgan was only one of three Nationals players who made outs either at third base or at the plate in this game. Ian Desmond got caught in his own rundown in the seventh, costing his team a run. And Ivan Rodriguez was thrown out by the width of a gnat's eyelash at the plate on Desmond's grounder in the 13th.
It's nitpicking, perhaps, to harp on those plays. Any of them could have gone either way, and if any slide in safely, they're applauded for their aggressiveness. But if the Nationals truly believe they're ready to compete with the best MLB has to offer, they can't afford to have three runners thrown out like that in a game like this.
There's a small margin for error for this team. Look at how many things they did well today, yet they still lost.
"If you play like that -- if you play the way we played there, and we've
played like that a lot -- you're going to win your share of ballgames," manager Jim Riggleman said.
Unlike their predecessors, these Nationals actually believe they can (and should) win games like this.