Sep 18, 2013, 10:27 PM EDT
Game in a nutshell: After taking both ends of Tuesday’s doubleheader, the Nationals found themselves in position to go for a rare (but much-needed) series sweep of the Braves. They put themselves in position to pull it off, taking a 2-0 lead in a wild bottom of the fifth that saw Jayson Werth draw a bases-loaded walk on a borderline call by plate umpire C.B. Bucknor, leading to both Fredi Gonzalez and Alex Wood’s ejections. But it all came crashing down in the top of the sixth when Ross Ohlendorf (who had allowed only one baserunner to that point) served up a pair of home runs and committed a throwing error to give the Braves the lead. Atlanta added an insurance run in the seventh and another in the ninth, leaving the Nationals to have to mount an improbable rally against Craig Kimbrel for the second straight day. They pulled it off Tuesday afternoon. They couldn’t do it again tonight. Thus they failed to pull off the improbable sweep and fell (for the moment) to 5 games back in the NL Wild Card race with 10 game to play, with the Reds tied with the Astros in the sixth when this game ended.
Hitting highlight: When Denard Span stepped to the plate in the bottom of the seventh, he and the crowd of 30,636 knew this might be his last chance to keep the hitting streak alive. Span worked his way to a 3-1 count, and obviously a leadoff walk with his team trailing by two runs late would have been a welcome result. But he delivered an even better result, roping a line drive over Dan Uggla’s head at second base for a clean single. The crowd roared as Span rounded first base, advancing his hitting streak to 29 games. He’s now only one game shy of Ryan Zimmerman’s club record, set in 2009.
Pitching lowlight: The good news: Ohlendorf was brilliant for five innings, allowing one hit and facing the minimum 15 batters. The bad news: He has shown a penchant for fading quickly as he gets deeper into games, and sure enough it happened again tonight at the worst possible time. Ohlendorf served up a homer to the first batter he faced in the sixth. He committed a ghastly throwing error on a bunt by the second batter. He very nearly served up a 2-run homer to the third batter, saved only by the right-field foul pole. But then he did serve up a 2-run blast to the fifth batter of the inning, leaving the Nationals trailing and leaving plenty questioning why Davey Johnson didn’t have anybody warming in the bullpen knowing Ohlendorf’s tendencies. What are those tendencies? Well, as a starter this season, Ohlendorf boasts a 1.93 ERA in innings 1-4. But in innings 5-7, that number skyrockets to 7.84.
Key stat: The Nationals finished the season 6-13 against the Braves.
Up next: The Marlins come to town for the Nationals’ final homestand of the regular season, a four-game series that may require a Washington sweep to keep hopes alive of another home game in 2013. Stephen Strasburg returns from his forearm tightness to face right-hander Henderson Alvarez.
COUNTDOWN TO OPENING DAY
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