Sep 18, 2013, 3:40 PM EST
Here’s a fortuitous position the Nationals find themselves in: After taking both games of yesterday’s doubleheader, they now have a chance to sweep the Braves in this three-game series. Who’d have thunk that 48 hours ago?
To pull it off, the Nats will need a strong outing from Ross Ohlendorf, making one final start so Stephen Strasburg can have an extra day to recover from his forearm tightness. This will be the first time the veteran right-hander has faced the Braves this season, so we’ll have to see whether that favors him or Atlanta’s lineup.
Denard Span, meanwhile, will be looking to extend his hitting streak to 29 games, just one shy of Ryan Zimmerman’s club record. Forget about that personal achievement, the Nationals simply need Span to produce and set the table for the rest of this lineup the way he has been throughout the last month.
For you scoreboard watchers out there, the Reds wrap up their series in Houston at 8:10 p.m. EDT. The Nats would love for Bo Porter and Co. to salvage at least one win in that series and give them a chance to gain ground in the Wild Card standings, but that’s no easy task.
Updates to come…
ATLANTA BRAVES at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 186
Weather: Partly cloudy, 68 degrees, Wind 6 mph RF to LF
CF Denard Span
3B Ryan Zimmerman
RF Jayson Werth
LF Bryce Harper
SS Ian Desmond
1B Adam LaRoche
C Wilson Ramos
2B Anthony Rendon
RHP Ross Ohlendorf
SS Elliot Johnson
RF Justin Upton
1B Freddie Freeman
LF Evan Gattis
C Brian McCann
3B Chris Johnson
2B Dan Uggla
CF Logan Schafer
LHP Alex Wood
HP CB Bucknor
1B Dale Scott
2B Todd Tichenor
3B Jordan Baker
7:06 p.m. — We are underway on a cool, crisp September evening in the District. Ross Ohlendorf rears back and fires strike one to Elliot Johnson to get this one started.
7:10 p.m. — Ohlendorf gets right down to business. He retired the side on 12 pitches, striking out Justin Upton on an 83-mph curveball. He also got help from Ryan Zimmerman, who made one of his patented, barehanded-scoop-and-throw plays on Johnson’s bunt attempt.
7:24 p.m. — The Nats tried to mount a two-out rally in the bottom of the first, getting singles from Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper, but Ian Desmond lined out to center to end the inning. So it’s scoreless after one.
7:41 p.m. — Three hits in two innings for the Nationals. Unfortunately, they’ve all come with two outs. Tough to get much going like that. Still 0-0 as we go to the third.
7:50 p.m. — Nine up, nine down for Ohlendorf. I won’t say anymore. For now.
8:04 p.m. — Well, there will be no perfect game tonight. Justin Upton lined a single up the middle with one out in the fourth. But he was immediately erased when Freddie Freeman roped a liner right at Adam LaRoche, whose natural momentum left him standing directly on first base for the easiest double play you’ll ever see. Still scoreless as we go to the bottom of the fourth.
8:15 p.m. — Another 1-2-3 inning for Ohlendorf, who has faced the minimum through five. Get this. Here’s the combined pitching line for Ohlendorf and Tanner Roark the last two nights against the Braves: 12 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 11 K. That’s pretty good.
8:42 p.m. — Wow, what a crazy bottom of the fifth. It included a leadoff single by Rendon, a sac bunt by Ohlendorf and then a slow grounder toward first base by Span that Freeman bobbled. After considering the play for a moment, the official scorer ruled it an error (the correct call) so that leaves Span 0-for-3 in his quest to extend his hitting streak. But of far more significance, the Nats loaded the bases with one out and then Werth battled his way through an 8-pitch at-bat that culminated with a ball four call on a 3-2 inside fastball. The crowd roared as Werth trotted to first and Rendon trotted home. Fredi Gonzalez, on the other hand, sprinted out of the Braves dugout and made a beeline for C.B. Bucknor, who immediately ejected Fredi from the proceedings. Wood was furious himself but was allowed to stay in the game. He then surrendered a sac fly to Bryce Harper, so that made it 2-0, at which point Wood was pulled from the game and started cursing loudly at Bucknor, who ejected the Atlanta pitcher. Quite an inning there, folks. Nats lead 2-0 after five.
8:55 p.m. — Well, unfortunately that was all too predictable. Ohlendorf, as he has been wont to do, faded in the 6th inning. Big-time. He served up a leadoff homer to Uggla. He made a horrible throw to first base on a bunt. He nearly served up a two-run homer to Joey Terdoslovich, who just pulled it foul down the right-field line. But then he did serve up a two-run homer to Justin Upton, a bomb to left-center. So now the Nats trail 3-2, a frustrating turn of events, especially considering the fact the Nats didn’t have anybody warming in the pen as Ohlendorf was fading.
9:07 p.m. — More C.B. Bucknor wackiness. Anthony Varvaro drilled Anthony Rendon in the back with an 0-1 fastball, and Bucknor issued warnings to both dugouts. Don’t see why that was necessary, and the Braves certainly weren’t happy with it. Anyways, it’s still 3-2 Braves after six as Craig Stammen enters.
9:20 p.m. — A big insurance run for Atlanta off Stammen, via McCann’s RBI double off the wall in right-center. It’s now 4-2 and the Nats will have to rally again vs. the Braves bullpen.
9:44 p.m. — The good news: Span lined a single over the second baseman’s head to lead off the bottom of the seventh, extending the hit streak to 29 games. Standing ovation for Denard. The bad news: Despite putting two on, the Nats couldn’t drive either in. Harper grounded out to second. Desmond flied out to right. So it remains 4-2 Braves as we go to the eighth.
9:50 p.m. — A 1-2-3 eighth for Ryan Mattheus. That was needed. Now a rally is needed as we go to the bottom of the eighth.
9:58 p.m. — Well, they’ll have to do it in the ninth against Craig Kimbrel again. David Carpenter retires the side in the bottom of the eighth. Still 4-2.
10:19 p.m. — Another insurance run for the Braves off Mattheus in the top of the ninth. So now it’s 5-2 as Kimbrel enters. The Nats did it yesterday. Can they do it again tonight?
10:27 p.m. — That’s it. Nats lose 5-2. They’re now 5 games back with 10 to play, with the Reds still playing in Houston (and tied 4-4 in the sixth at last check).
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
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As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
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