After our spectacular run through June and the first half of July, today landed with a bit of a thud in terms of ways to end the “first half” of the season. Strider wasn’t great and the offense wasn’t great en route to a 7-3 loss to the Nationals on Sunday. However, positives abound, including that the Cubs actually managed to beat the Mets this afternoon, so we stay 2 1/2 games back of the NL East lead. Also, the aforementioned spectacular run left us at 56-38 for the season, putting us in an excellent position in terms of the playoff picture as of now. We currently hold the top wild card spot, four games ahead of San Diego and six ahead of a tie between Philadelphia and St. Louis (one of whom would currently be out). It’s been an altogether excellent three months and a particularly excellent month-and-a-half.

Alas, this is a recap of today’s game, so I’m obligated to go through the particulars. (Maybe one day I’ll master the art of ignoring the turd of a game and writing about something else entirely.) This game kind of went off the rails in the second, when the Nats scored four runs off Spencer Strider. The Braves righty had struck out back-to-back Washingtonians after a leadoff walk of Josh Bell (who’s been an excellent thorn in our backside this past week, I must say) and could’ve been out of the inning with perfect defense by Austin Riley. A slow roller to the left side got past Strider and Riley was charging hard. He made a barehanded pick and threw to first with his momentum falling toward the plate. Though a tough play, I think an accurate throw ends the inning. The throw was anything but that. It went down the right-field line and put runners on second and third for World Series champion Ehire Adrianza. Adrianza singled home a pair of runs and then Victor Robles followed with a two-run shot and it was suddenly 4-0. Due to the difficulty of the play at third, they gave Franco a hit on the Riley misplay and the error only came in for allowing the runners to move up an extra base apiece. It’s a call that I think I agree with (an accurate throw there required more than “ordinary effort” by Riley, which is the benchmark for an error according to the rulebook). That made all four runs in the inning earned for Strider, but he had ample opportunity to get somebody out, so not exactly the greatest injustice of our time or anything.

In any case, Strider wound up only going four innings, allowing five runs (all earned) on four hits and a couple walks. The break certainly can’t hurt.

The Braves got back in the game in the fourth, collecting hits in four straight at-bats to put three on the board. Dansby Swanson led off with a single and Matt Olson followed with a double into the corner. (He finishes the “first half” with 34 doubles.) Riley made up for his earlier fielding mistake with a single to center to put runners at the corners, and Eddie Rosario (who I see some folks have already turned on again) drove Olson home with a sacrifice fly (not technically an at-bat, by the way). Adam Duvall followed with a double to score Riley and make it 4-3.

The magic of a bullpen game, though, is that if a guy you put in isn’t working, you can just go to the next guy up, and Washington did that just in time. They brought in Steve Cishek, who quickly got the final two outs of the inning and restored order. The Braves wouldn’t again dent the scoreboard.

The Nats added some insurance runs and the Braves struggled with everybody except Jordan Weems (the guy they scored three runs on), as seems to frequently happen when they go against a bullpen game (though I admittedly don’t have the numbers in front of me on that).

So now cometh the most boring week of the entire sports calendar. The Braves will be back in action from Truist Park next weekend, when they welcome the badly listing Los Angeles Angels.