The great American humorist Mark Twain once said, “ÂœNever argue with stupid people — they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”

Along those lines (sort of), NBA coach/announcer Jeff Van Gundy, in moments of on-court malfeasance, has been known to say, “ÂœStupid will get you beat.”

It’s a sentiment I heard voiced from a variety of coaches throughout my sporting youth. They weren’t always nice about it, but the nice way to put it was: “ÂœI can handle the physical errors, but the mental ones are unforgivable.”

Nonetheless, all that coach-speak essentially meant the same thing: “ÂœGet your head out of your ass before you lose this game all by yourself.”

In one half-inning tonight at Nationals Park, the Braves and Nats tried to outdo each other on the Dum-Dum Meter. In the end, an inexplicably botched opportunity quite possibly cost Atlanta the game. For all their positive surprises throughout the season, the Braves simply aren’t good enough to get away with that, and tonight they didn’t.

The Game: Helluva pitchers’ duel tonight. While the Braves scratched only a half-dozen singles off Jordan Zimmermann, their own hurler, Shelby Miller, was a strike-throwing machine tonight, a model of mound efficiency.

In a duel like this, there’s often a late-inning moment when one side’s fans collectively say, “ÂœUh-oh.” That came when Miller walked Denard Span, leading off the home 7th. Up ’til then, Miller had allowed only one hit, yet still facing the minimum. After Rendon chopped one over third for a single, putting runners on first and second, Escobar rapped into a force play, leaving runners on the corners with one out.

Next up, the Designated Villain Bryce Harper blooped one a few tantalizing inches over Jace Peterson’s glove, giving the Nats a 1-0 lead. With Freddie Freeman on the DL and the Nats not giving up many runs this week, it seemed like that score might certainly hold up. But… not so fast…

Cue the 9th-Inning Uprising: With Drew Storen attempting to close things out, consecutive singles from Cakes & AJP should’ve put runners on the corners with nobody out. Instead, The Designated Villain in right-field fired through to third, but badly missed the cutoff man, allowing AJP to waltz into second. As he slowed down to touch the bag, AJP very pointedly looked out to right-field. (Dick move, or instructional moment? Discuss…)

We’re suddenly in business and, when the Nats decide to intentionally walk Joey Terdoslavich, loading the bases with nobody out, it was hard not to imagine Muddy Waters exclaiming, “œWell, well, well, well…” Hey, we might just win this thing right here.

But with Harper’s head-up-his-ass moment in right-field, one idiotic instance deserved another, one assumes, because on KJ’s run-scoring sac fly to center, Joey Terds (not to be confused with this guy) tried to tag up from first & got thrown out at second, ending up in a sprawling, humiliating, head-first mess. Instead of a tie-game & runners on the corners with one out (AJP tagged & made it to third), we just have a runner on third with two down.

Andrelton Simmons then grounded out. A very winnable game quickly turned into something rather different, a contest where the extra-inning death march suddenly seemed appealing.

Now, there’s no way to know if Andrelton gets the go-ahead run in from third with one out. But we do know this: If Terdoslavich stays put, we have our best contact hitter at the plate and we have one more out with which to work. It was a boner, perhaps not Merkle-sized in context, but certainly one that impacted this contest, one that the Braves really needed.

Grilli worked through the top of Washington’s order in the bottom of the 9th. But alas, later in the home 11th, it all ended. Eveland collected an out, then surrendered a scorching Harper double. He intentionally walked Ramos, then (after getting ahead 0-2) very unintentionally walked Clint Robinson, loading the sacks. Fredi pulled him, bringing in Aardsma, who promptly gave up the game-losing sac fly to Desmond. Ballgame.

Stupid is as stupid does.

P.S. — This chocolate-syrup thing the Nats have going on is not an especially good look. I’ll leave it at that.