BOSTON, MA: Roger Bernadina #2 of the Washington Nationals, who knocked in the winning run in the ninth inning, gestures in the outfield against the Boston Red Sox during interleague play at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
A couple years ago, being swept by the Nationals would be a true embarrassment--one not easily lived down at any record.
Now, it's not really even a surprise.
To be fair, that's in large part due to the fact that the Nationals are actually a good team. We saw first hand the primary reason for that, with Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimmermann taking the mound. He wasn't quite the same dominant force as his teammates, but he wasn't all that far off, either. A home run for David Ortiz, a few runs manufactured here and there off early baserunners, but nothing in the way of significant, sustained offense.
Still, there's something to be said for the idea of a top pitching staff shutting down a top offense, and even with the substitutes we've been forced into using by injury after injury, that's what this bunch is supposed to be. Three times now the Sox put their lineup to the test, and three times it's failed. Gonzalez is no longer looking like he's ready to break free from his slump, Saltalamacchia looked helpless, and while Dustin Pedroia reached base twice and now technically has a hitting streak, you'd be hard pressed to say he's truly looked good.
If there's any real positive to take from this series, it's that Jon Lester took what looked like a terrible start in the making--he nearly allowed at least one run to come in when he threw an inexcusably high intentional ball that Jarrod Saltalamacchia had to make a leaping grab on--and turned it around until he fell just short of escaping the seventh unharmed.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Alfredo Aceves, who tallied another blown save. The one-inning appearances still do not seem to be working out for Boston's improvised closer.
Somehow, 60 games into the season, the Sox are two below and still in it. The question is whether or not over the next month and so many days the team will be in a position where they can reasonably determine what to do at the trade deadline. While nobody wants another Octoberless season after 2010 and 2011, it would be even worse to mortgage the farm system on a team with too many problems to make a convincing run, be it in September or October.