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Series preview: Nats at Braves

Jul 15, 2011, 1:00 PM EDT

Friday, 7:35 p.m. — RHP Livan Hernandez (5-8, 4.01) vs. RHP Tim Hudson (8-6, 3.57)
TV: MASN Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM

Saturday, 7:10 p.m. — LHP John Lannan (5-6, 3.64) vs. RHP Tommy Hanson (10-4, 2.44)
TV: MASN, MLB Network Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM

Sunday, 1:35 p.m. — LHP Tom Gorzelanny (2-6, 3.94) vs. RHP Jair Jurrjens (12-3, 1.87)
TV: MASN, Ch. 50 Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM

BRAVES UPDATE
The Nationals have gone 23-15 since June 1, their best prolonged stretch of baseball in quite some time, yet they've actually lost two games in the wild-card race. Why? Because the Braves have been better than anyone else in the NL over that same span, going 24-12.

Atlanta has been able to sustain such a torrid pace because of stellar pitching across the board. Right-hander Jair Jurrjens has enjoyed a breakthrough season, leading the league in wins (12) and ERA (1.87). Fellow young hurler Tommy Hanson has been nearly as impressive, going 10-4 with a 2.44 ERA and 109 strikeouts in 103 1/3 innings.

The real domination, though, has come out of a bullpen that boasts a 2.90 ERA (second-best in the majors) and a whole lotta power arms.Read more »

  1. P. Cole - Jul 15, 2011 at 1:29 PM

    Hudson (the Nat Killer), Hanson, and Jurrjens — I hope everyone is well rested.

  2. UNTERP.NAT - Jul 15, 2011 at 2:06 PM

    To be perfectly honest, the Nats would be fortunate to come out of this series with one win, but we can hope for two…

  3. Anonymous - Jul 15, 2011 at 2:14 PM

    This is the make or break series for the year. If they win it, they are moving into the WC discussion in a more series way; if they lose it, then they are further back from the Bravos with less games head to head and things tilt toward packing it in. If the former hapens, the club has some tough decisions to make about improving the club to make a run; if the latter, than they need to sell Marquis, Pudge, Livo, Coffey, Burnett, etc. If Rizzo stands around and does nothing but write statements about A ball field preparation this July, then he is dead to me.dfh21

  4. Unkyd - Jul 15, 2011 at 2:37 PM

    One gets the impression that how well dfh21 brushes his teeth…Every Single Morning… will determine whether or not they all fall out, by lunchtime. Certainly, it's an important series, but thankfully, I doubt Rizzo is gonna make a lot of big personnel decisions, on Monday, based on the results. I would LOVE to be in the WC chase!! But it would be a BONUS… This season continues to be about building and evaluating for '12 and beyond. If decisions being made on that basis contribute to a run this year…so much the better…GYFNGOGOGOGO!!!!!! (did I get the first post-ASB on in there?) :)

  5. JD - Jul 15, 2011 at 2:49 PM

    Unkyd,Exactly right !!!

  6. UNTERP.NAT - Jul 15, 2011 at 2:52 PM

    Anonymous said… @10:14 AMDon't necessarily agree that the series is make or break. Listen, the Nats are unlikely to get the wild card regardless of how this series ends. Of course you never know how things can pan out. The important thing is not to get to far ahead of ourselves. Let Rizzo continue with the futures plan and stay on the path. Cliche, play it one game at a time…

  7. Gonat - Jul 15, 2011 at 2:53 PM

    Stacking the leftys is a good idea. Lets hope we see a dominating Livan tonight. There will be no Chipper so it is going after McCann and shutting down Heyward, Uggla and Gonzalez.You know their pitchers will be tough so the way to beat them is the Nats pitchers can't yield. Remember, Marquis beat Hudson and Lannan beat Hanson already this year.Check out the April 2nd, May 10th and 11th boxscores. A combination of small ball, smart ball and long ball and decent pitching.

  8. Slidell - Jul 15, 2011 at 2:57 PM

    The Braves series is important, but the Astros, Dodgers, Marlins and Mets are critical. A 9-6 record over this stretch will leave us in a position to have a pleasant summer. I would like more, but like Unkyd, one step at a time.

  9. HHover - Jul 15, 2011 at 3:08 PM

    Agree with Unkyd and Slidell–esp. liked the way you made your point, Unkyd.In the hyperbolic prediction sweepstakes, my favorite is still the poster from yesterday who said that the rest of Jayson Werth's season depends on how he handles the first pitch he sees tonight.

  10. Waddu eye no - Jul 15, 2011 at 3:10 PM

    MmmmBraves getting by with great pitching to make up for slow offense?O NO! Were playing ourselves!But we've beaten ourselves in the pastGyfng!

  11. FS - Jul 15, 2011 at 3:23 PM

    9 road games and 2 home series against division rivals. We will see if Nats can continue to be in playoff equation. Espinosa sounded very confident while talking about team goals, but the way Nationals have played on the road may not get us those goals. If we see any semblance of a playoff shot, I suggest on holding off on trading Marquis, Nix, Coffey, etc. However, I think Rizzo has a set plan for this season and might not be hesitant in trading some of these guys.And I agree that the most difficult series is Braves because of their starting pitchers we are facing.

  12. UNTERP.NAT - Jul 15, 2011 at 3:45 PM

    What if the Nats swept the Braves and decided to buy and would only say looked to buy one player, regular or pitcher, what should they buy?

  13. sjm308 - Jul 15, 2011 at 3:54 PM

    Good afternoon posters:Thanks to Mark's listings on the side I read a nice piece on National News Network. We are 8 games behind the Braves and there are FIVE teams ahead of us. We have 70 games left. If the Braves just play .500 baseball they will finish with 89 wins. Just to tie them we would need to go 43-27!!! And that is with us shuting down our number one pitcher in about a month.I am going to enjoy what we have done, root for us to continue to play winning baseball but can't see how people will continue to talk about playoffs. Last year and the year before, we were not even in the picture to finish at .500. This is another building year. Rizzo should not be quick to buy or sell but if he gets an offer that will help us in the next two years I hope he at least listens. Go Nats!!

  14. Unkyd - Jul 15, 2011 at 3:58 PM

    Toughie, Unterp… Of course, it depends entirely upon the cost, which is why I would counsel against any big buy, at this point, unless somebody wants to dump a salary badly enough to take some combination of veterans (the usual names bandied about here: Marquis, Nix, Ankiel…ect.), and perhaps ONE prospect. If you could get an ace or a LO/OF, it'd be worth looking at. But whos gonna do that?!

  15. Steve M. - Jul 15, 2011 at 4:00 PM

    Gonat said… Remember, Marquis beat Hudson and Lannan beat Hanson already this year.Check out the April 2nd, May 10th and 11th boxscores. A combination of small ball, smart ball and long ball and decent pitching. July 15, 2011 10:53 AM Hard to believe it was this season that the Nats beat both Hudson and Hanson.Those May games had a very different Nats lineup and hope that Werth contributes like he has this year already against the Braves.This is my favorite stat and just had me laughing. This is pitcher ownership in a small sample of course. Does Davey dare do Stares starting? Nats' best vs. Hudson — Matt Stairs (5-for-6, 2 2B, BB) Stares has doubled off of him twice and has no recorded extra base hits this entire season!The Braves are stacked with lefties so this is where Burnett and Detwiler need to really step it up. With a rested bullpen, I am curious to see the strategy Davey goes into these games with. Hoping to see Coffey back to a stopper short role where he was so effective in the early season.

  16. sjm308 - Jul 15, 2011 at 4:05 PM

    UnTerp – great question – again, not to try and win this year but to look for the future, I think the leadoff hitter, outfielder jumps up at me. I think we have lots of young pitching and the big pitching deals are usually done in the off-season (CC Sabathia, here we come!!). Like I just said earlier, I want Rizzo to stay the course and do what needs to be done to help this team be in a spot to win the NL East next year and for years to come. The one pitcher I might want to look at this year is the set-up guy for the Padres. I can't remember his name but his stats are just off the chart. If the Padres start to dump and he is available, I think you make that deal.

  17. Anonymous - Jul 15, 2011 at 4:05 PM

    OK, on this teeth brushing analogy, it is clever, but off target completely. If the Nats lose 3 to the Braves, Rizzo had better be doing his due diligence looking to sell the pieces that have value to the clubs still in it on Monday. What the Hell else would a MLB GM on a club out of the running be doing late in July with the trade deadline looming?? If the Nats are 11 games out of the WC, Rizzo had better be a seller. If the Nats are 5 games back on Monday, with his club close to contention for the first time in 6 years and a Stras return potentially looming in September and Wang coming back sooner than that, etc., he has some harder decisions to make. Playoff contention is not a bonus, if it is a reality, then the club needs to make personnel decisions balancing trying to win this season and trying to keep the club on pace to contend in the future; and whether the Nats are likely to be in it or not hinges in no small part on this head-to-head series with the WC leader. This is big, very big. dfh21

  18. Steve M. - Jul 15, 2011 at 4:15 PM

    sjm308 said…I am going to enjoy what we have done, root for us to continue to play winning baseball but can't see how people will continue to talk about playoffs. Go Nats!! July 15, 2011 11:54 AM Great points you made. That 8 game lead seems tough to overtake and truth be told, if the Nats do something crazy like win these 3 games against the Braves then it is within the realm of possibilities. If they don't, you are right and then you just go for respectibility and go for that 82-80 record.

  19. Unkyd - Jul 15, 2011 at 4:16 PM

    You're a good sport, dfh21 :)Your second post is much more to my wayoif thinking. But again, you don't want to trade the pieces that are of value to us, beyond this year, so I think we agree, that our youngsters stay home, and we don't let anyone go who we don't already have a replacement for?

  20. Unkyd - Jul 15, 2011 at 4:34 PM

    Reposted, from late, a couple of threads ago, in case you missed it (still making me grin…..Ok….. Anybody wishing to hold that, MASN has no sense of humor, needs to see the commercial I just saw, on channel 9."How do you define 'Lighting It Up'?Jayson Werth…. batting .333, at Turner Field…"I kid you not….. Still ROFL…… :)

  21. Unkyd - Jul 15, 2011 at 4:37 PM

    (captcha was "forse". Spellcheck insisted it should be "gorse"…..THATS IT!!!! Tonight, Werth starts Hacking The Gorse!!!!

  22. Nats Outsider - Jul 15, 2011 at 4:42 PM

    sjm308, you have posted one of your usual sensible observations. This is not the year for the Nats to harbor playoff ambitions. It is, however, the year for the Nats to end the run of being a laughing stock. Respectability is, well, a respectable goal, and finishing at .500 will achieve that. I, for one, will be thrilled if the Nats can achieve that. After all, it would represnt a 13-win improvement over last year. However, I also agree with that this series with the Braves could be critical. Not for wild card contention, but because it will set the tone for the second half. The Nats are literally on the cusp here. Given the pitching matchups, the way Atlanta has played, and our away-game record, it is unfortunately quite possible that we will get swept in Atlanta. That would put us back in the hole, 3 games under .500. Worse, it might lead to a clubhouse depression that would increase the risk of a total collapse. Winning even one game will change that dramatically. I'll take leaving Atlanta within one game of .500, but that's going to take both focus and luck. Here's hoping.

  23. Exposremains - Jul 15, 2011 at 5:38 PM

    I've been waiting all week thinking the Nats would make some kind of move(call-up, release, trade) but nothing happened. It concerns me that they are satisfied with the current roster.I thought Johnson saying that he doesn't like the roster would mean some changes but I guess its all talk.

  24. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 15, 2011 at 5:57 PM

    Ok, suppose the Nats win 2 of 3 in Atlanta.How is 7 games back in the middle of July so much better than 8 games back in the middle of July that their roster decisions for the next year and a half should hinge on what happens in the rubber game Sunday?

  25. Anonymous - Jul 15, 2011 at 6:10 PM

    Has anyone been paying attention to the Marlins lately? I just noticed that are on a 6-game winning streak and have pulled within 2 games of the Nats. That makes it even more important for the Nats to come away from Atlanta without any disasters.

  26. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 15, 2011 at 6:13 PM

    Don't get me wrong, these guys are gamers, and I like watching them, again. But the Braves are going to win 90-something games, and the Nats are not, regardless of who beats whom this weekend.Sometimes, it is the size of the dog in the fight.The roster decisions have to be based on players' development, and who's available to help, this year (because playing well matters even if you don't finish first) and beyond.

  27. Anonymous - Jul 15, 2011 at 6:15 PM

    How is 7 games back in the middle of July so much better than 8 games back in the middle of July that their roster decisions for the next year and a half should hinge on what happens in the rubber game Sunday? They don't. Especially since signing Rendon could change the whole dynamic almost overnight? Junior college players Goodwin, Turnbull, and sophmore Purke could be a year to two+ out. But then there's Meyer. What they will impact is how the Nationals view the current state of the roster. Do they need help from outside (as in Fielder, Anibel Sanchez, etc)? Are their top 5 picks going to have an impact in the near term? Who do they currently have in the minors that might help them? (Antonelli, Lombardozzi, Milone, Meyers, Stammen, Detwiler (although he is now with the big club), and Wang. Where do they fit?The above is my understanding why Davey Johnson relished the idea of taking over as manager, a roster makeover that along with Rizzo and the FO try to find where all the pieces fit together. The Atlanta series is a key to determining if the potential exists to make a wild card run this year. But, it will only be a data point or two in making the determination above.

  28. Unkyd - Jul 15, 2011 at 6:15 PM

    That's right, Sofa… If we wind up In the hunt, it'll be a byproduct of getting set up for next year. We wouldn't just have to catch Atlanta…there's 4 other teams ahead of us we'd have to pray would play worse than us. Look, I'm Mr. Pollyanna, remember? But taking even one step off the "Path to Next Year's Glory", in pursuit of the "Ghost of a Wild Card Dream", would be a fools errand.Bonus. Keep your eyes on the prize, Fellow Babies!!!

  29. Anonymous - Jul 15, 2011 at 6:20 PM

    Has anyone been paying attention to the Marlins lately? I just noticed that are on a 6-game winning streak and have pulled within 2 games of the Nats. That makes it even more important for the Nats to come away from Atlanta without any disasters. The Marlins have a new park coming and a rich farm system. They are competitive and have the talent to make a run for the division title.Best for the Nats to worry more about player development in the minors and signing those first five picks from the 2011 draft … and International signings. The Marlins can't compete with the Lerners nor the DC market. The Nats need to start leveraging that to a far greater extent than they have in the past.

  30. Anonymous - Jul 15, 2011 at 6:25 PM

    It concerns me that they are satisfied with the current roster.I thought Johnson saying that he doesn't like the roster would mean some changes but I guess its all talk. He did and he doesn't. I'm sure a lot of time was spent evaluating the first half and the roster over the break. But moves take time. Trades [the likely scenario at this point] take even more time.

  31. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 15, 2011 at 6:25 PM

    @2:15–yes, but…My point was, they know now that they aren't making the playoffs. They will not learn, from these games, which draftees will ultimarely sign. Unless somebody gets hurt, they are probably decided on what they have, at least on the 25-man.

  32. UNTERP.NAT - Jul 15, 2011 at 6:28 PM

    Winning 10 more games than last season would be significant to me…

  33. A DC Wonk - Jul 15, 2011 at 6:36 PM

    Sec 3, My Sofa said… Ok, suppose the Nats win 2 of 3 in Atlanta. How is 7 games back in the middle of July so much better than 8 games back in the middle of July that their roster decisions for the next year and a half should hinge on what happens in the rubber game Sunday?Because it's a sprint, not a marathon? ;-)

  34. Yogi - Jul 15, 2011 at 6:54 PM

    They have 70 games left! Seventy! Do you know how many games that is? That's a lot of games.

  35. Harper_ROY_2012 - Jul 15, 2011 at 6:55 PM

    Ugh with these pitching matchups 0-3 is a real possibility to start the 2nd half! :(

  36. Anonymous - Jul 15, 2011 at 7:04 PM

    Holy cow. Defeatism makes a smashing come back! They KNOW NOW that they are not in the playoff hunt?? wtf. I think Ryan Zimmerman begs to differ. If the Nats take 2 of 3 from the Braves, they have a less than terrible schedule for the rest fo July (Stros, Mets, Fish and Dodgers), so they could be 4-5 games back on July 31 without having to get crazy luck. The Giants were in 4th place in the NL West at the break last year, the Phils were in third place in the East (they made up 10.5 games to pass the Braves for first). Giving the Braves a 90 win season right now is beyond ridiculous (players get hurt, have slumps, the ball bounces funny ways, other teams get hot and lucky when your does not, etc.). There are 70 games left to play and the Nats have played well over the last 6 weeks without getting contributions from key guys and with talent in the pipe to help soon; they have a shot at it. Some notion that they should essentially pack it in right now is crazy talk. (IF they end up 11 back next week and have to beat 6 clubs to get the WC, that is another story.)And this theme I read in here that clubs build on MLB standings success from year to year is nonsense. There is no course to stay, they are not building up anything that carries over but for the talent they employ. The roster for 2012 will be in no better shape next Spring if the 2011 Nats win 82 games or only wins 74 games. The D-Bax and Pirates and Indians are not hoping to be midling in 2011, feeling that they are not worthy of playoff contention because they were last place clubs last year. The Bucs after a forever of losing are not thinking about holding their prospects back from trade to saty some rebuilding course to wait for a day when they have had a history of recent moderate success to chase a WS ring. dfh21

  37. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 15, 2011 at 7:24 PM

    Sorry, I don't mean to be Capt. Bringdown, but … injuries? The Braves' plane would have to crash, with that rotation. And have you looked at the schedule for August?And with all due respect to Zimm, I would be dusappointed if he said anything else, but … no.

  38. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 15, 2011 at 7:25 PM

    Captcha was "annie"–not sure how to take that.

  39. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 15, 2011 at 7:34 PM

    I do, however, agree with this.And this theme I read in here that clubs build on MLB standings success from year to year is nonsense. There is no course to stay, they are not building up anything that carries over but for the talent they employ. The roster for 2012 will be in no better shape next Spring if the 2011 Nats win 82 games or only wins 74 games. The D-Bax and Pirates and Indians are not hoping to be midling in 2011, feeling that they are not worthy of playoff contention because they were last place clubs last year. The Bucs after a forever of losing are not thinking about holding their prospects back from trade to saty some rebuilding course to wait for a day when they have had a history of recent moderate success to chase a WS ring.

  40. HHover - Jul 15, 2011 at 7:41 PM

    dfh21Your example doesn't really prove your point. Last year at the ASB, SF was only 2 games back in the WC race and only 4 games back in a so-so division. This year, the Nats are back 11.5 in arguably the toughest division in baseball, and are 8 games back in the WC race, behind five other teams.Is it impossible for the Nats to make the playoffs? No. Is it likely? No. This isn't so much a "make or break" series as a "break or hang around" series. If the Nats get swept, they're out of it. But even if they sweep ATL, they're still 5 games back in the WC hunt.That's not defeatism–that's reality. They should still play every game to win, and if the stars line up and the other teams fall down perfectly, then hallelujah (as Bryce Harper would say).

  41. ChicagoNatsGirl - Jul 15, 2011 at 8:03 PM

    Mark–are you in Atlanta?

  42. Mark Zuckerman - Jul 15, 2011 at 8:03 PM

    ChicagoNatsGirl: Yes, I'm here. Just posted the game thread with lineups.

  43. Anonymous - Jul 15, 2011 at 10:42 PM

    Hey, Mark, I think it's Nate McLouth who's worst vs. Livo, not Nats McLouth… :)

  44. Unkyd - Jul 16, 2011 at 12:04 AM

    An excellent rant, dfh21 !!! I hope I'm not posting too late to retain your attention…However, I havent heard anyone suggest packing anything in. I just don't wanna see any Greinke type deals struck, in hopes of contending for a WC. A LO/OF, the addition most likely to help us out, would cost a pretty penny, likely more than some rental veterans. Would you advocate giving up 2 or 3 ready-to-go prospects, for a run at the WC? That's all I'm trying to say… Of course you try to win, every day. Just don't trade tomorrow's championships for a chance at a tin cup.

  45. natsfan1a - Jul 16, 2011 at 11:33 AM

    I am thinking that Nats McLouth is sounding very funny, though. I am also thinking that, at those times when he is not whacking the ball 500 feet, he is sporting a snazzy zoot suit and spats. He is also tossing a coin up in the air and then catching it with the same hand. That is how he rolls, this Nats McLouth. :-)

  46. natsfan1a - Jul 16, 2011 at 12:47 PM

    Of course, the moniker is even better if you drop the "h" and the gentleman is batting for the home team. Now hitting for the pitcher, Nats McLout. :-)

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
WASHINGTON 55 44 --
ATLANTA 55 46 1.0
NEW YORK 48 53 8.0
MIAMI 47 52 8.5
PHILADELPHIA 43 57 12.5
Through Wednesday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
THU: OFF
FRI: Nats at Reds, 7:10 p.m.
SAT: Nats at Reds, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Nats at Reds, 1:10 p.m.
MON: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
TUE: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
WED: Nats at Marlins, 12:40 p.m.
Full season schedule

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ON THE RADIO

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MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

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