The count was 2-1 to Alex Avila, and Wilson Ramos called for a fastball down and away to Detroit's .193-hitting catcher. Strasburg, though, misfired by a foot, leaving the 96-mph heater on the lower-inside corner, right in Avila's wheelhouse. As the ball soared toward the right-field bleachers and the crowd of 41,880 rejoiced the grand slam, Strasburg could only soak it all in, mutter a couple of things and try to recompose himself and finish his evening.
The rest of the Nationals, meanwhile, could only take a deep breath and come to grips with their latest dose of stark reality: This 5-1 loss to Detroit, combined with the Braves' lopsided win over Colorado, leaves them a full 10 games back in the NL East entering the final day of July.
"I really could care less what the Braves do," shortstop Ian Desmond said. "We're [three] games under .500. We've got to worry about ourselves. That's first and foremost. And then the rest will take care of itself."
It may not matter if the rest takes care of itself. The Nationals aren't holding up their end of the bargain, and because of it they're digging themselves into an even deeper hole.