Apr 11, 2014, 11:30 PM EDT
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: Not even Tolstoy would have enough ink to cram every detail of this ballgame into one leather-bound book, but we’ll try to present the Cliff Notes’ version…
Tanner Roark was beaten around for four early runs, putting the Nationals in another early hole. Ryan Zimmerman’s bomb off Julio Teheran in the top of the fifth tied the game back up. Zimmerman was involved in a bunch of wacky plays in the field, a couple of them prompting Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez to storm out of the dugout and chat with second base umpire Angel Hernandez for several minutes … before being told by his coaches not to formally challenge the calls.
Adam LaRoche tried to score on a wild pitch — from SECOND BASE — and was called out, with Matt Williams challenging that call, which still stood after a long delay. Bryce Harper ignited an eighth-inning rally by beating out a bunt. He later scored the go-ahead run on Denard Span’s RBI single up the middle, which ended with Span on the ground in pain after colliding with Dan Uggla.
Trying to preserve a 6-5 lead in the eighth, Tyler Clippard served up a homer to Justin Upton, continuing his rough start to the season. In the ninth inning of a tie ballgame, Craig Kimbrel struck out the side. Then Drew Storen did the same in the bottom of the frame, sending this one to extra innings.
The game was lost in the bottom of the 10th. With two outs and pinch-runner Jordan Schafer on first base, Jerry Blevins fired over several pickoff throws, frustrating the crowd. When Blevins finally pitched, Schafer took off for second. So did Anthony Rendon, who was unfortunately out of position for Upton’s bloop hit to shallow right field, allowing Schafer to come all the way around to score the winning run.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: As painful as it is for him to throw a baseball overhand right now, Zimmerman insists he has no discomfort swinging the bat. The results suggest he’s telling the truth, because he’s been crushing the ball. Never more so than in the top of the fifth inning tonight. After Uggla’s horrible throw from second base kept the inning alive, Zimmerman took advantage of the opportunity by crushing a 3-2 fastball from Teheran way over the left-field fence for the 3-run homer that brought the Nationals all the way back from an early 4-0 deficit.
PITCHING LOWLIGHT: It was pretty clear Roark was in for a difficult night right from the start. His fastball command was all over the place, resulting in three hit batters out of the first 14 he faced. The right-hander grooved a 91 mph fastball to Ramiro Pena, who crushed it for a 3-run homer in the second. Some nifty defensive plays (and some close calls that went the Nationals’ way) helped get Roark into the fifth inning, a fairly significant development given how much work the bullpen has done in recent days. Roark, though, couldn’t quite get through that fifth frame. After allowing a two-out double to Freddie Freeman, Matt Williams decided not to take any more chances and pulled his starter after 86 laborious pitches.
KEY STAT: Fourteeen of the last 27 games between these teams has been decided by one run. The Nats are 4-10 in those games.
UP NEXT: What else is in store when this series continues Saturday night with another showdown between these two rivals. Taylor Jordan faces Alex Wood in a rematch of Sunday’s game in D.C., won 2-1 by the Nationals. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m.
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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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