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Faces of frustration define Nationals heading into final week

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Faces of frustration define Nationals heading into final week originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The season’s frustration level had two faces Sunday. The first was Max Scherzer’s sneering on-field grimace following an out that was not recorded. The second was Eric Thames’ closed-eyed exasperation discussing the unrecorded out after the game.

Carter Kieboom’s low throw from third base to first was dropped by Thames with the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth inning of Game 1. If Thames catches it, the inning is over. Instead, the go-ahead run scored. Scherzer was removed from the game. The Nationals lost, 2-1. They blew out the Marlins in Game 2, 15-0. Washington is 20-32. Eight games remain in the season’s final seven days.

Scherzer was stern after Game 1. He remained focused on his personal gains and failures, skipping opportunities to comment on other aspects of the team. He thought he pitched well Sunday, when he was anchored with a loss despite not allowing an earned run.

The primary reason he lost, Thames’ drop, put the often jovial first baseman in a distraught mood. He first displayed his irritation on the field, then maintained it during a quick between-games Zoom session with reporters. He was asked how often he expects to catch a throw such as Kieboom’s descending toss.

“Every single time,” Thames said.

He then released a giant sigh.

“Yup, Just missed it.”

How frustrating has all of this been?

“Just very frustrating living life as it is now,” Thames said. “It’s not just on-the-field stuff, but it’s off the field. You can’t do anything. You’re stuck in your room. You’re eating the same meals every day. Using your microwave more than ever. It’s just very, very frustrating. The natural energy’s not there. Yeah, your teammates pick you up. Your teammates are playing for each other. But the games, it’s a whole different environment now.

“For the guys doing really well, awesome. Pitchers, hitters, defensively, all that. But it’s a grind. You don’t get that natural boost. For me at the plate, if I just relax, I feel like my hands fly, I can hit any pitch, any zone, depending on the pitcher and situation. But, now I have to amp myself up to be able to catch up to velo, then I start swinging at everything. It’s a constant chase. It’s a grind. That’s all I’m going to say.”

It wasn’t all. He leaned back, shut his eyes and put his hands on his hairless head.

“Holy cow. Awe, man. Yeah.”

Baseball’s perpetual absurdity changed the vibe for at least a few hours afterward. Ben Braymer pitched five scoreless innings in his first major-league start. The Nationals won, 15-0. It at least made the flight from Miami back to D.C. palatable.

But, Monday starts the final eight games across seven home dates. Four with Philadelphia — including a doubleheader Tuesday, the third in five days — are followed by four against the New York Mets. The Phillies are likely to make the postseason. The Mets are fading out. The Nationals have long been out of it.

“It’s no mystery the season has been weird, to say the least,” Kurt Suzuki said. “Frustrating, whatever you want to call it. At the same time, with all the stuff that’s going on, we’re able to still play baseball and get some of the games in. Do what we love to do. You try to take the positives. It’s hard to take the positives a lot when it’s so frustrating… It’s just been a weird season.”

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