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Instant analysis: Braves 6, Nats 2

Apr 5, 2014, 10:42 PM EDT

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GAME IN A NUTSHELL: For three innings Saturday night, the crowd of 37,841 at Nationals Park had ample reason to get excited and believe the hometown club would make progress in overcoming the psychological demons that are the rival Braves. And then Ryan Zimmerman attempted to make a routine throw across the diamond in the top of the fourth, and everything changed.

Zimmerman’s unsightly throwing error set in motion a downward spiral for the Nationals, who saw Stephen Strasburg give up six runs (only three earned) over his final 1 1/3 innings, a lineup that squandered plenty of opportunities against Atlanta ace Julio Teheran and manager Matt Williams ultimately pull Zimmerman from the game after five innings. There was no strategic reason for the benching, so the only two conclusions that can be drawn are that 1) Zimmerman is injured, or 2) Williams simply didn’t trust him to continue playing.

Thus the Nationals lost their second straight to the Braves, their 15th loss in their last 21 games against the chief NL East rivals. It’s incredibly early, less than a week into the season. But the longer they go without beating Atlanta, the larger that psychological hurdle becomes.

HITTING LOWLIGHT: The Nationals can’t say they didn’t give themselves chances to come back and make a game of this. They put the leadoff man on base in five of their first six innings against Teheran, and twice put their first two men on. But they were an abysmal 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. The lone hit? Adam LaRoche’s third-deck homer in the bottom of the first. Of the seven outs they made in those situations, six came either via flyball or strikeout. So not only were they not delivering in key spots, they weren’t even moving runners up.

PITCHING LOWLIGHT: Though it would be easy to look at the results and say Strasburg melted down after the Zimmerman error, that might be a stretch. Yes, he did let six of the eight batters he faced after the Zim gaffe reach safely, but none was especially hard-hit. Strasburg also labored earlier, pitching only one clean inning out of five overall. Regardless of the reason, this was the right-hander at less than his best. And the results were not pretty.

DEFENSIVE LOWLIGHT: When Zimmerman retreated to snag Andrelton Simmons’ chopper in the top of the fourth, the entire ballpark held its collective breath. This, unfortunately, is what it has come to, with everybody knowing the situation and scared to watch the result. Zimmerman’s subsequent throw was all too familiar to anyone who has been paying attention; it sailed high and wide, with very little oomph on it. Once it got past LaRoche, the Braves’ first run of the night scored. It’s only five games, but Zimmerman has had only two opportunities to make “routine” throws from third to first so far. Each produced an error.

KEY STAT: In 63 career innings against the Braves, Strasburg has allowed 63 hits. In 382 career innings against everyone else, he has allowed only 293 hits.

UP NEXT: The Nationals will need a quality performance from No. 5 starter Taylor Jordan in his season debut Sunday afternoon, with first pitch scheduled for 1:35 p.m. Alex Wood starts for the Braves, which could prompt Matt Williams to make some lineup changes for the series finale. Don’t be surprised if Bryce Harper and/or Adam LaRoche sits against the young lefty.

  1. Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 5, 2014 at 10:46 PM

    5th inning did it again,..

    Zimm’s error led to the tie game
    SS awful, awful meltdown led to the lead…

    Gotta be able to overcome adversity…

    Let’s win tomorrow….

  2. David Proctor - Apr 5, 2014 at 10:47 PM

    Well, win tomorrow and all is forgiven. Losing 2/3 isn’t good, but I’ll live with it. Please don’t get swept. Win tomorrow, and we’re tied at 4-2.

    • veejh - Apr 5, 2014 at 10:49 PM

      Hot Marlins next, and then the Braves again, Friday. Tomorrow’s game looms large.

      • David Proctor - Apr 5, 2014 at 10:51 PM

        I’m not that concerned with the Marlins (except Fernandez). They’re 5-1, but it’s a mirage. Their offense isn’t as good as it’s looked.

  3. veejh - Apr 5, 2014 at 10:48 PM

    If I have to deal with another season of baseball like that, I’m going to lose my mind.

  4. Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 5, 2014 at 10:49 PM

    And I need the 3rd base coach to know the personnel on the team.. Another bad send tonight…

  5. manassasnatsfan - Apr 5, 2014 at 10:50 PM

    Several concerns

    Return of Zim’s bad throws.

    Return of Stras melt downs after errors.

    Bew concern 3rd base coach sending slow runners to easy outs at home.

  6. BigCat_Mike - Apr 5, 2014 at 10:50 PM

    ALR shouldn’t sit, he’s one of the few we can count on right now. Bryce can take a day off though.

  7. veejh - Apr 5, 2014 at 10:51 PM

    Is McLouth a secret love child of Matt Williams?

    • David Proctor - Apr 5, 2014 at 10:52 PM

      Huh?

      • veejh - Apr 5, 2014 at 10:52 PM

        You don’t think they look identical?

  8. David Proctor - Apr 5, 2014 at 10:52 PM

    Matt says RZim has shoulder soreness, to get an MRI tomorrow. No good.

    • veejh - Apr 5, 2014 at 10:54 PM

      Actually, good, if he’s going to continue being a defensive liability. Looks like Espi is gonna start at 2nd very soon.

      • manassasnatsfan - Apr 5, 2014 at 10:55 PM

        Starting tomorrow I assume.

      • David Proctor - Apr 5, 2014 at 10:55 PM

        Espinosa cannot replay Zim’s offense, even if Espinosa is swinging it well. We’re already missing Ramos. Zim is a defensive liability, but he’s still an important bat for us. We need offense.

      • veejh - Apr 5, 2014 at 10:58 PM

        I realize Espinosa is a downgrade on offense, but clearly, Zim lost us the game today. No throwing error, and Stras cruises.

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 5, 2014 at 11:03 PM

        How in the world did Zimm lose us the game today… He gave up the error and The game was tied…

        Then SS had a meltdown… I didnt realize that Zimm changed uniforms and started pitching to the braves batters and throwing gofers for them to hit all over the field…

      • rabbit433 - Apr 6, 2014 at 7:27 AM

        Yes, David P, we need offense, but we need it at the right time! It’s so frustrating. We’ll get hits, get a couple of guys on, but never seem to get the bat on the ball after that to move them along or bring them in. Frustrating. Just like last year.

    • manassasnatsfan - Apr 5, 2014 at 10:54 PM

      Well what is new. Take care of tgese thing before it shows up during the game

  9. secretwasianman - Apr 5, 2014 at 10:56 PM

    I saw this movie WAY too many times last season. Let’s hope it’s not 2013 all over again.
    Stras is a mediocre pitcher. People need to quit drinking the kool aid and realize that.

    • manassasnatsfan - Apr 5, 2014 at 10:58 PM

      So far the plot looks like the same.

    • veejh - Apr 5, 2014 at 10:59 PM

      Definitely better than mediocre, but his mental fragility is a major flaw.

  10. manassasnatsfan - Apr 5, 2014 at 10:59 PM

    Alex Woods starts tomorrow bet Hairston is in left. Keon catching.

    • sjm308 - Apr 5, 2014 at 11:09 PM

      Home from another disappointed outing

      Really cold up in 308 but that is not why we left early

      This could have been worse – Braves left a ton of runners on, I am guessing somewhere around 10-12

      Barrett continues to impress

      Harper does not – I would bench/rest him and play McClouth not Hairston

      Wondering why SS went away from his fastball tonight – He was throwing 96/97 early but in the inning they scored 4 runs he threw an awful lot of off-speed stuff. Makes no sense.

      So sad to see Zimm struggling again this year. It might not have deflated the team but it sure deflated our group.

      Couple of positives (beside the bullpen & Laroche crushing that pitch in the first inning)
      Lines were more manageable
      Big scoreboard was working
      Heard Charlie & Dave on the concourse
      Pretty nice t-shirt
      AND, a great sticker delivered by Dueces – Thanks Eric, we waited for you by 104 but wanted to be in our seats before first pitch
      Negative beside the overall play of our team was I did not get to meet or thank Eric in person

      Another day tomorrow, another hat and hopefully a win

      Go Nats!!

      • JW - Apr 6, 2014 at 12:08 AM

        Big scoreboard was almost working. Still no replays at all, even of routine plays.

      • sjm308 - Apr 6, 2014 at 11:20 AM

        they showed LaRoches HR

    • sjm308 - Apr 5, 2014 at 11:09 PM

      Bet its McClouth

  11. manassasnatsfan - Apr 5, 2014 at 11:03 PM

    Where did this 3rd base coach come from? He has made some real poor calls so far.

  12. hantiaolang - Apr 5, 2014 at 11:06 PM

    Sorry for the doom and gloom,

    But if Ramos was certain his hand was broken a week before ST ended and if Ryan Z started icing his shoulder and stomach about the same time, what is the Nats’ med staff worth? What do those guys do?

  13. stoatva - Apr 5, 2014 at 11:14 PM

    Come on, who doesn’t think .600 ball makes the playoffs?

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 5, 2014 at 11:20 PM

      Nats have to just play better ball… These past 2 games, mistakes cost them… Clean it up and win tomorrow…and take at least 2 from them next week…

  14. David Proctor - Apr 5, 2014 at 11:17 PM

    Zim did not cost us this game. His error was 1 run. Then Strasburg gave up a hit to the pitcher for the tying run. And then melted down in the next inning. AND even with all that, we had plenty of chances to get back into the game but couldn’t get the big hit. Zimmerman deserves a share of the responsibility, but it’s completely unfair to blame this entirely on him.

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 5, 2014 at 11:19 PM

      Yeah… I don’t get that at all… But I guess it’s just easy to blame Ryan for everything…

    • stoatva - Apr 5, 2014 at 11:21 PM

      Thanks for the adult perspective. Sometimes it’s lacking, hereabouts.

  15. veejh - Apr 5, 2014 at 11:26 PM

    Strasburg doesn’t meltdown if Zim doesn’t throw that error. Zim was the catalyst. Had he not thrown that error, I don’t think we lose. I know it’s all speculation, but that how I feel.

    • David Proctor - Apr 5, 2014 at 11:30 PM

      That’s not Zim’s fault though. If Zimmerman makes an error, do you think JZimm melts down like that? The pitcher has to pick his teammates up sometimes. I don’t think we’d all be saying “RENDON LOST US THE GAME” if Rendon booted a ball, for example.

      • veejh - Apr 5, 2014 at 11:33 PM

        Rendon doesn’t have a history of causing game changing errors, and I already stated above that Strasburg is a weak minded pitcher.

      • David Proctor - Apr 5, 2014 at 11:36 PM

        An error is an error. It’s only game-changing because of what follows. Zim deserves blame for making the error, but that’s it. The meltdown is entirely on Strasburg and Strasburg alone. Errors happen in baseball.

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 5, 2014 at 11:36 PM

        Oi vey….

        Again, Zimm throws the error…. Game becomes 2-1… Instead of oicking his team up, SS proceed to shave one of his epic meltdowns instead of overcoming adversity… For goodness sake, he threw a pitch to The braves pitcher that anyone could have hit… And then proceeds to not throw strikes to the next 3/4 braves…

  16. Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 5, 2014 at 11:37 PM

    Anyway… Was a little surprised Hairston went in to face the RHP when it’s known he’s better against lefties… Was thinking why not Mclouth…

    • nats128 - Apr 5, 2014 at 11:39 PM

      Hadnt Mclouth already pinch hit before that?

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 5, 2014 at 11:41 PM

        I know Frandsen didnt… Can’t remember about mcclouth..

      • nats128 - Apr 5, 2014 at 11:41 PM

        No, you are right. Mclouth pinch hit in the 9th and Hariston in the 7th.

  17. nats128 - Apr 5, 2014 at 11:38 PM

    Here we are again with the blame game. Its RZ, no its SS no its RZ no its SS. They were both awful.

    Good night.

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 5, 2014 at 11:39 PM

      Both had their fair share… But to say it’s all on Ryan Z is silly…

      Let’s take about RISP… Let’s talk about bad sends… Let’s talk about only 2 runs being scored tonight…

  18. veejh - Apr 5, 2014 at 11:39 PM

    So, hypothetical….Zim doesn’t throw the error and gets out of that inning 2-0….you think Stras throws up all those meatballs the following inning? I don’t think so.

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 5, 2014 at 11:40 PM

      He only had 1 clean inning all night if I remember correctly, a who knows…. But at what point does SS grow up and take a step back, calm it down and pick up his team mates…

      • veejh - Apr 5, 2014 at 11:43 PM

        Look, I agree. SS should have been able to overcome but he could not. Zim has mind***ked Stras with all the throwing issues. You could see it on SS’s face after it happened.

    • David Proctor - Apr 5, 2014 at 11:43 PM

      I don’t know if he does or not. We can’t say. But my point is that a pitcher’s JOB is to get through the inning despite errors behind them. You can’t just let Strasburg off the hook for a meltdown because a player made an error.

      At least Rendon is trying to keep it loose…

      Adam Kilgore ‏@AdamKilgoreWP 29s
      As Bryce Harper spoke to reporters about how terrible he feels, Anthony Rendon squeezed into the scrum to ask, “What’s your favorite color?”

      • veejh - Apr 5, 2014 at 11:46 PM

        Look, I’m with you. There’s a history now with this Zim error with Stras on the mound game changing moments and it’s not good.

      • NatsNut - Apr 6, 2014 at 6:57 AM

        Oh man, that’s GOLD right there!

  19. scnatsfan - Apr 5, 2014 at 11:49 PM

    Jesus Christ can we beat these guys or not?

    • David Proctor - Apr 6, 2014 at 12:10 AM

      Momentum only goes as far as the next game. Let’s create some of our own momentum tomorrow.

      • scnatsfan - Apr 6, 2014 at 12:18 AM

        I agree but it gets in your head when one team owns you

  20. chaz11963 - Apr 6, 2014 at 9:44 AM

    Horrible game. They haven’t played that bad all through ST and in NY. Even in Friday night’s loss, though they made some base running mistakes, they looked better than last night. Poor Zimm… what can you say, his shoulder is clearly not fixed. I don’t even know what to say about Stras, he looked so good at the start of the game, then fell apart.

    There seemed to be a lot of Braves fans at the game, and they were merciless.

    The Metro was awful- packed and few trains. Getting a taxi after a game is next to impossible. The taxi stand on M Street at Half Street was LONG and there were NO taxis!

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