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Instant Analysis: Nats 2, Braves 1

Apr 6, 2014, 4:19 PM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: The Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 2-1 on Sunday to avoid the sweep in the teams’ first series of the season. The game started as a strong offensive showing by the Nats, but quickly turned into a pitchers duel between Taylor Jordan and Braves’ lefty Alex Wood. Wood gave up three straight singles in the first before settling in to retire 13 straight. He escaped the first inning with just a run allowed and kept the game close through seven innings of work.

The Braves tied the game on a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning before a solo home run by Ian Desmond in the seventh gave the Nats the lead once again. Jerry Blevins, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano came in to close it out and push the Nats to 4-2 on the season in front of 34,327 fans at Nationals Park. It was Soriano’s first save of the year.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: With the Nats laboring through scoreless inning after scoreless inning against Wood, Desmond took matters into his own hands to begin the bottom of the seventh. He took the first pitch he saw – a 87 mph fastball – for a monster home run to left field, a ball that nearly landed on the concourse. It was a solo shot and gave the Nats a 2-1 lead.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Taylor Jordan was excellent in his first start of the 2014 season, allowing just one run through 6 1/3 innings of work. He gave up six hits and two walks with three strikeouts on 89 pitches. The Braves finally broke through with a run off him in the top of the sixth after 5 1/3 scoreless innings to start.

The Braves led the inning off with a Freddie Freeman single followed by a Chris Johnson double. Dan Uggla then hit a long fly ball to left-center to bring home Freeman on the sacrifice fly. Jordan left the game in the seventh with a man on second, but Jerry Blevins retired the next two batters to end the inning. Jordan took a no-decision as the game was 1-1 when he exited, but it was a strong outing overall.

KEY STATS: Jordan has now allowed just one run through 12 1/3 career innings in two starts against the Braves; Nats are now 4-2 through their first six games for the third consecutive year.

UP NEXT: The Nationals have the day off before the Miami Marlins come to town. The Marlins have been an early season surprise with a record of 5-2 through their first seven games. Gio Gonzalez (1-0, 1.50) will go up against Henderson Alvarez (0-1, 9.00).

**Also of note: Ryan Zimmerman pinch-hit for Tyler Clippard in the bottom of the eighth, despite being held out of the lineup with a sore shoulder. We’ll find out more after the game.**

  1. Nats128 - Apr 6, 2014 at 4:21 PM

    Heart pumping! Nice win!

  2. veejh - Apr 6, 2014 at 4:22 PM

    Here’s my instant analysis, we need a real closer. Good hard fought win, though.

    • David Proctor - Apr 6, 2014 at 4:26 PM

      As section 222 said, he gave up two infield hits and struck out two dangerous hitters. What more do you want?

      • stoatva - Apr 6, 2014 at 4:28 PM

        Kimbrel.

      • David Proctor - Apr 6, 2014 at 4:29 PM

        Well there’s only one Kimbrel.

      • stoatva - Apr 6, 2014 at 4:30 PM

        Well there’s only one Kimbrel.

        Perzackly.

      • Section 222 - Apr 6, 2014 at 4:31 PM

        Um, Kimbrel pitches for the Braves.

      • veejh - Apr 6, 2014 at 4:44 PM

        Maybe a 1,2,3 occasionally?

      • scmargenau - Apr 6, 2014 at 6:43 PM

        DP. Pure luck… Those pitches were up and normally get crushed.

      • realdealnats - Apr 6, 2014 at 7:39 PM

        222 and DP —

        Usually agree with you guys. But I really feel like Soriano is an accident waiting to happen. He never seems to overpower anyone. He seems to survive on smoke and mirrors. Always gives up at least a walk or a hit. Often a couple walks or hits or combination thereof. I hope you guys are indeed right. But come inning 9 and a Save situation all I feel is tick tock tick tock tick.

        By the way, my Bourbon of choice is Woodford Reserve.

    • sjm308 - Apr 6, 2014 at 4:34 PM

      Are you ever satisfied with anything?

      • veejh - Apr 6, 2014 at 4:43 PM

        Lots….just not Soriano, Zim’s tosses and Strasburg’s meltdowns.

      • realdealnats - Apr 7, 2014 at 5:06 PM

        sjm–

        Sure. Satisfied with almost everything about this team. I did wonder if Drew was just trying new pitches out etc in ST, and am thrilled with him so far this year. Hope he keeps his edge, stays focused, and quits nibbling so much. Hope Clip’s arm holds out. Like Barrett and hope he holds up second time through the schedule. Hope Det settles in and accepts his new role and excels. Blevins has been a big surprise. Always been a Stammen fan. And don’t dislike Soriano. But for a closer he just doesn’t seem to have any wiggle room at all between his success and failure. It’s a tight space he succeeds in, and it always feels to me like the roof is ready to fall in.

  3. NatsNut - Apr 6, 2014 at 4:22 PM

    Baseball. SMH.

  4. texnat1 - Apr 6, 2014 at 4:26 PM

    MW got the better of them today. Handled the bullpen just right. Gonzalez on the other hand made an odd mistake having Wood hit for himself in the 7th, which made it less likely they would score in that inning and left him in to serve one up for Desi.

  5. Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 6, 2014 at 4:28 PM

    Great game…even better outcome…on to the fish…

  6. stoatva - Apr 6, 2014 at 4:28 PM

    I think Soriano gets a pitching highlight, too. Tough strikeouts and two ground balls that went for hits. As good as I’ve seen him, though it still makes me nervous when he’s up in the zone like that.

  7. Joe Seamhead - Apr 6, 2014 at 4:29 PM

    OK, I was critical of the Blevins trade, but if he pitches like he did today he may make the difference in the scope of things.(I’ll probably always stick to my matra that we traded the wrong guy) Great job by Jerry today.
    Soriano is filling the emergency rooms with people with chest pains and stomach aches!

    • Section 222 - Apr 6, 2014 at 4:40 PM

      Gotta get used to it. He’s not a lights out closer who can blow the other team away. But he got the job done today quite well. People are entitled to be nervous and to criticize him when he messes up. But be fair. Today was a very good outing. He clearly had a plan against Heyward to pitch him up, and it worked. Give the guy some credit. He’s a pro.

      • Joe Seamhead - Apr 6, 2014 at 4:46 PM

        Hey, he makes me more than a little bit nervous, but I have yet to ever say that Soriano shouldn’t be our closer. I think he’s a lot better than he gets credit for by many on here.

      • realdealnats - Apr 7, 2014 at 5:09 PM

        222–

        I’m one of those Soriano worriers, but you’re right, heck yeah his strategy worked today. A tip of the hat to Mr. Untuck.

      • Section 222 - Apr 7, 2014 at 5:18 PM

        I hear you.. I’m on the edge of my seat hoping for the best. I love when he talks to his hat though. The guy is totally a creature of habit and routine. It’s cool to watch.

        I have no doubt that he’ll blow some saves this year. Comes with the territory. And the comments will explode with people ready to dump him overboard after the very first one. But if he saves 40 and blows 5, I’ll be ok. That’s one blown for every nine saves. Four or less would be a great year.

  8. stoatva - Apr 6, 2014 at 4:31 PM

    Who remembers when Gregg Olson was the closer for the Orioles? Good dog, that man could make you sweat out a save.

    • stoatva - Apr 6, 2014 at 4:34 PM

      Typical G.O. save:

      Walks the leadoff hitter, who steals second.
      Olson wild pitches him to third.
      Next two hitters walk.
      Next two hitters strike out.
      Last guy flies out to the warning track.

      Save!

      • NatsNut - Apr 6, 2014 at 4:35 PM

        LOL

      • hantiaolang - Apr 6, 2014 at 5:24 PM

        Yes, but – holy smokes – that curveball! Dropped about 4 feet.

  9. NatsNut - Apr 6, 2014 at 4:35 PM

    It seems like all closers will give you a heart attack most of the time. Except Kimbrel.

  10. TimDz - Apr 6, 2014 at 4:36 PM

    I don’t like bourbon and I’m even less fond of Maalox…..

    But something tell me I may need to acquire a taste for both…..and soon….

  11. Nats128 - Apr 6, 2014 at 4:43 PM

    Ghost, you called it inflammation and possibly discomfort from scar tissue. No structural damage for RZ.

  12. Eric - Apr 6, 2014 at 4:46 PM

    What a ride… Phew! So glad we ground this one out!

    • Joe Seamhead - Apr 6, 2014 at 4:56 PM

      Eric, sorry we missed you last night. If you still have any of your stickers, I’d love one. (Funny story, short version, but my son and girlfriend broke down in Oregon a couple of years back and Mark Weir’s adopted brother was not only the mechanic, but he put them up for almost a week!). Deuces, We were in row H last night. I have a habit of yelling “SEAT! ” when our pitchers rack up a K.SJM308, we’re both getting long in the tooth but I really thought I might have recognized you if I’d seen you, but, no.

      I wish that we could “P.M.” on this blog sometimes. Sorry to everyone for bogarting the blog. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming…

      • Eric - Apr 6, 2014 at 7:22 PM

        Sorry I missed you, too, Joe! I have a sticker with your name on it, for sure!

  13. Theophilus T.S. - Apr 6, 2014 at 4:53 PM

    Doesn’t matter much that there’s “no structural damage” if he can’t throw. I don’t know how you rehab that quickly — Williams seemed to be saying as much, even tho he predicted it would be a “short time” — and be confident that the “cure” took.

    • David Proctor - Apr 6, 2014 at 4:58 PM

      Zimmerman is going to make errors, period. It’s not going away. If he can just be somewhat respectable over there, they’ll keep putting him out there because of the bat.

  14. David Proctor - Apr 6, 2014 at 5:00 PM

    Chase Hughes ‏@chasehughesCSN 47s
    Desmond is quitting dipping tobacco and called making it through the game today without it ‘a bigger victory than beating the Braves.’ #Nats

    Good for him.

    • Nats128 - Apr 6, 2014 at 5:03 PM

      +1

    • Hiram Hover - Apr 6, 2014 at 5:36 PM

      + another.

    • Section 222 - Apr 6, 2014 at 5:45 PM

      That is tremendous news! And he hit a HR. That’s got to help his resolve.

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 6, 2014 at 5:52 PM

      Kudos to him… I know a few people are trying to stop smoking/getting away from tobacco use and they are having a time with it…

      I wish him luck as he tries to quit it…

  15. Theophilus T.S. - Apr 6, 2014 at 5:02 PM

    I would have to say that Fransden handled LF pretty well. Making the assumption (rash) that Zimmerman gets healthy, and everybody else stays healthy, Fransden is really third on the depth chart at every IF position. So it’s good to be able to put him the OF every once and a while.

    • letswin3 - Apr 6, 2014 at 6:01 PM

      I thought he was on the depth charts at only the corner infield positions?

  16. natsguy1 - Apr 6, 2014 at 5:09 PM

    Let’s give some credit to Matt Williams for keeping Blevins in to face the left-handed Freeman to lead off the 8th rather than blindly going to his “Eighth Inning Guy” in Clippard. I’d bet my last dollar Davey would’ve brought in Clippard if he was still managing.

    On Friday, with the left-handed Heyward scheduled to lead off, MW went with Clippard and he walked Heyward and gave up a one-out single to Freeman, sending Heyward to third, and he scored the winning run on a sac fly. MW definitely should’ve used Blevins in that inning with two quality left-handers guaranteed to hit.

    I hope this was a lesson learned.

    • Nats128 - Apr 6, 2014 at 5:21 PM

      Smart move on Blevins. I thought that strategy was one thing the last manager didn’t like to do. I think he did it once or twice in his tenure with the Nats.

    • NatsNut - Apr 6, 2014 at 6:28 PM

      Agreed. I really liked the move to keep Blevins for Heyward.

    • NatsNut - Apr 6, 2014 at 6:29 PM

      Oops, I mean Freeman.

    • Section 222 - Apr 6, 2014 at 6:56 PM

      Very good point. Great he didn’t make the same mistake twice. Blevins doesn’t throw hard but he seems to be deceptive.

      I liked his defensive substitutions and use of Zim as a PH today too. Seemed to push the right buttons.

    • hantiaolang - Apr 6, 2014 at 7:08 PM

      Yep. I am rooting hard for Sandy Leon, but when he came up to bat in the 7th, I was kind of glad he got out so we wouldn’t get to Blevins’ spot in the line-up – and he could stay in to face Freeman.

  17. paul brandt - Apr 6, 2014 at 5:12 PM

    Happy with the win but 5 runs in three home games is what it is…we are fortunate to have won 1 of 3.

    Soriano was up in the zone but he did get the save…man, he makes me nervous every time he pitches.

    Maybe RZim can use the pitcher as a relay man on throws to 1B.

    • Section 222 - Apr 6, 2014 at 5:46 PM

      Pretty sure he was up in the zone by design, at least against Heyward. Maybe Ghost can give us some analysis.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 6, 2014 at 5:51 PM

        222, if you remember a HR walkoff Soriano gave up last year he talked about that’s where he wanted the ball and the batter got it.

        It’s like Chris Young and I’m not a fan of high ball pitchers unless they are throwing gas or they have good dip or tail on it.

        At least today Soriano was throwing strikes.

      • Section 222 - Apr 6, 2014 at 6:02 PM

        Right. That day it didn’t work, today it did. But the point is, he wasn’t missing up. He definitely had a plan for Heyward. I can’t say for sure about the others, but no one hit him hard.

    • Sonny G 10 - Apr 6, 2014 at 5:51 PM

      HaHa! That’s funny on the relay throws to 1B.

  18. secretwasianman - Apr 6, 2014 at 5:24 PM

    Disagree Paul. We should have two of these . Not lucky to win today

  19. philipd763 - Apr 6, 2014 at 5:42 PM

    Soriano, the king of a high WHIP, scares me every time he makes an appearance.

  20. Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 6, 2014 at 5:46 PM

    Frandsen looked like a good alternative for LF.

    • Joe Seamhead - Apr 6, 2014 at 6:33 PM

      You’re a better judge than me if you can make that determination from 3 or 4 balls hit his way. He did fine today, actually looked better than Moore ever has.

  21. Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 6, 2014 at 5:49 PM

    I wasn’t nervous when Sori went out…. My nerves flailed a little bit when Simmons reached 2nd… But I was confident in Sori…

    I think another solid closer is the Rays closer (like him a lot)… I guess Sori wanted to give the crowd a memorable outting…

    But it got the job done…

    Now, the fish… We don’t face Fernandez… I’m glad about that.

  22. Sonny G 10 - Apr 6, 2014 at 5:54 PM

    Is that official that scar tissue is the issue with Ryan? I had a hunch that that could be the problem.

    • JW - Apr 6, 2014 at 6:15 PM

      Scar tissue never mentioned. Just inflammation.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 6, 2014 at 6:48 PM

        Mentioned on the radio as a possible cause of the pain. Inflammation is the official diagnosis.

        I was fairly sure this morning when I gave my thoughts that it wasn’t structural which was a hunch and I predicted inflammation and scar tissue.

        In RZim’s defense excessive workload and certain movement can irritate it. Unfortunately this throwing issue could mostly be in his head.

      • JW - Apr 6, 2014 at 7:19 PM

        You need to distinguish between radio speculation and what was actually reported by the team sources. Lots of people speculate, very few actually know what they’re talking about.

  23. letswin3 - Apr 6, 2014 at 6:12 PM

    Soriano is always going to make us nervous. He likes to pitch up, he doesn’t have a put-away fastball and his breaking stuff sometimes doesn’t break. The best news is that his ultimate replacement might already be in the Nats organization … actually, in their current bullpen. Barrett has my attention, he has 2 good pitches and his price differential to Soriano is staggering.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 6, 2014 at 6:43 PM

      Treinen for closer could be an option and I like Barrett and maybe even Detwiler.

      Remember, there’s no scouting report on Barrett at this point. He needs to get through the honeymoon phase like Krol last year. If he makes it through he could be the guy. He has a good breaker and fastball.

      • realdealnats - Apr 6, 2014 at 9:08 PM

        It’ll be interesting to see if Barrett is the real deal the second time through. And I have hopes for Detwiler too. Thinking along the same lines.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 6, 2014 at 9:11 PM

        Thanks realdealnats!

  24. ehay2k - Apr 6, 2014 at 7:46 PM

    Was at the game and very happy with the result, and also how we played. Taylor Jordan is one cool customer!
    Very surprised by Espinosa’s error(s), but that is not his history so it should pass.
    Desi! The HR was nice, but so was a diving stop to his right to prevent a double.
    People love to complain about Soriano, but he had 43 saves last year and would have had at least 2 more except for errors by his teammates. Closers aren’t supposed to make it look easy, they just need to get the job done. Chad Cordero anyone?

    As for Kimbrel, he is not invincible. At at the rate they are using him, he may run into issues this year. Especially when Santana et al are put in the rotation, because they will not yet be full strength, and then the Barves will be leaning on the pen even more. The Barves really seem to work their staff hard.
    Speaking of which, Wood finished with over 100 pitches, and had some high-stress moments. He’s young and it’s only April. It will be interesting to see how he develops.

    Tomorrow is a much needed day off from throwing, hitting, and dipping (!!), then the Nats can fry the Fish.

    GYFNG!

  25. natsfan1a - Apr 6, 2014 at 8:19 PM

    Was also at the game and enjoyed the day, and the win.

    Haven’t read posts or comments but I do have two not-so-instant analysis items from a fan perspective.

    FAN LOWLIGHT: The group in front of me and the one to the right of me who both kept getting up and down and roaming the aisles in the middle of at-bats. I missed the Desi HR because the whole row in front of me decided to go for drinks, or a hot dog, or something during that at-bat. Just after they all stood up, he hit it out and the crowd went wild. At least I saw the replay on the screen.

    FAN HIGHLIGHT: I was proud of how Nats fans countered the #*(@$! T-hawk chant in the 9th inning. I remember so many games back in the day where a few of us tried to carry the entire seating section in “counter-cheers” and practically gave ourselves throat hemorrhages. I think we’re making some real progress in that regard. Well done, Nats fans. Well done.

    On another note, loved seeing Gio in the “happy dancing” film montage. (Me: “That looks kinda like Gio. Wait a minute, it *is* Gio!”)

    Also liked the new concourse paint job and did find some picnic tables near sec. 321, in the sun.

    Oh, and I got a Desi t-shirt, so that’s probably why he had the dinger. (Not really.)

    • Joe Seamhead - Apr 6, 2014 at 9:28 PM

      Thanks for your report,1A. I know that feeling of missing a homer because of the inconsiderate.i almost never go on Sundays because of that very reason.

  26. Sec 3 My Sofa - Apr 6, 2014 at 10:51 PM

    Why do they keep trying to throw Ian 1st pitch fastballs?

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FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS

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