Jun 20, 2014, 3:32 PM EDT
There’s really not much else to say about the Nationals and the Braves. You know the drill by now. All we can do at this point is wait and see what tonight’s game brings in this lopsided rivalry.
Stephen Strasburg has the ball, and he’s been very good lately (2.15 ERA over his last 10 starts). Having said that, he hasn’t beaten the Braves in his last six starts against them.
Mike Minor is on the mound for Atlanta, so the Nationals get to face another left-hander, which for the most part this season has made for good matchups. Having said that … well, you know.
Updates to come, please check back…
ATLANTA BRAVES at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM, XM 184, MLB.com
Weather: Rain late, 82 degrees, Wind 6 mph in from RF
CF Denard Span
3B Anthony Rendon
RF Jayson Werth
1B Adam LaRoche
LF Ryan Zimmerman
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
C Jose Lobaton
RHP Stephen Strasburg
2B Tommy La Stella
CF B.J. Upton
1B Freddie Freeman
C Evan Gattis
RF Jason Heyward
3B Chris Johnson
SS Andrelton Simmons
LF Jordan Schafer
LHP Mike Minor
HP Todd Tichenor
1B Clint Fagan
2B Mark Carlson
3B Tim Welke (cc)
7:07 p.m. — And we’re underway on what has turned out to be a gorgeous Friday evening in the District. 82 degrees and clear skies as Stephen Strasburg fires ball one to Tommy La Stella.
7:17 p.m. — Well, that wasn’t particularly good. Strasburg retired the first two batters, then thought he had Freddie Freeman retired on a 1-2 fastball on the outside corner. He took three steps toward the dugout, but had to hop back on the mound when umpire Todd Tichenor wouldn’t give him the borderline call. Strasburg’s next pitch was a 91-mph changeup, and Freeman belted it to right-center for a solo homer. According to Fangrpahs, that’s only the fifth home run Strasburg has ever allowed on a changeup. Opponents have hit .146 against that pitch in his career. One problem: A 91-mph changeup is great when your fastball is 99-100 mph. But when it’s 95-96 mph, as has been the case for Strasburg this season, that’s really not enough difference. Anyways, it’s 1-0 Braves.
7:22 p.m. — Mike Minor, meanwhile, retired the side on nine pitches in the bottom of the first, striking out both Denard Span and Jayson Werth.
7:38 p.m. — He has allowed only the one run through two innings, but Strasburg’s pitch count already is at 47, a whopping total. He needed a few extra ones to get through the top of the second, preoccupied a bit too much with Jordan Schafer on first base instead of Minor at the plate. Schafer wound up stealing second anyway without a throw, and Minor nearly poked a 2-run base hit down the right-field line if not for a nice, running catch by Werth. Still 1-0 Braves, heading to the bottom of the second.
7:49 p.m. — That’s a bit more like it. The Nats started hitting the ball with some real authority in the bottom of the second. Adam LaRoche singled, though unfortunately he was wiped out on Ryan Zimmerman’s 6-4-3 double play. No problem, because Ian Desmond followed with a towering blast to the very back of the left-field bleachers. An absolute bomb for his 14th homer of the season, nine of which have either given the Nats the lead or tied the game. This one made it 1-1. Danny Espinosa also doubled to the gap in left-center, though he was stranded when Jose Lobaton struck out. All in all, a good offensive inning for the Nats, who are starting to get their timing down against Minor.
8:12 p.m. — A couple more baserunners for the Nats in the bottom of the third, thanks to Span’s double off the top of the wall in right-center (just a few feet shy of a homer) and Werth’s 2-out walk. But LaRoche struck out looking at a fastball on the outside corner, so the Nats stranded two men on base. It remains 1-1 heading to the fourth.
8:27 p.m. — The Braves are just killing Strasburg with 2-strike hits tonight. They had three in a row in the top of the fourth, including Simmons’ RBI single to center, giving the Braves a 2-1 lead. Strasburg has now thrown 84 pitches through four innings. Incredibly, he hasn’t walked a batter. Atlanta’s hitters are just working the count really well.
8:50 p.m. — Yet another big, 2-strike hit by the Braves. Heyward laced a 2-2 pitch from Strasburg over Werth’s head in right field, bringing home two runs. It’s 4-1 Braves, and even though Strasburg is at 98 pitches, he will hit for himself to lead off the bottom of the fifth. Nobody is warming in the Nats pen yet.
9:00 p.m. — After the Nats went down really quickly in the bottom of the fifth, Strasburg cruised himself through the top of the sixth. Assuming he’s done, his final line is: 6 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 0 BB, 8 K, 107 pitches. The Nats now must score at least 3 runs before making 9 outs against the Braves.
9:08 p.m. — So, Mike Minor entered tonight’s game having given up 22 hits over his last nine innings. He has now given up five hits while striking out 11 in six innings. The Nats look absolutely lifeless out there right now, some terrible body language on display. It’s still 4-1 after six as Drew Storen enters.
9:29 p.m. — Well, Span brought some life back to the crowd and the Nats dugout with an RBI triple in the bottom of the seventh, scoring Espinosa (who has reached three times tonight). With Minor fading and sitting on 104 pitches, Rendon stepped to the plate with a chance to drive home another run … then he popped out on the very first pitch. So it’s a 4-2 Braves lead heading to the eighth.
9:47 p.m. — The Nats gave themselves another chance in the eighth after Zimmerman and Desmond delivered 2-out singles. That brought Espinosa to the plate in a huge spot. He had three really nice at-bats from the right side of the plate against Minor. Now he was batting left-handed vs. Anthony Varvaro. He worked the cont to 2-1 but then got under a pitch and skied a flyball to left to end the inning. So it’s still 4-2 after eight, and now Craig Kimbrel is warming in the Braves bullpen.
9:54 p.m. — OK, last chance. It’s Lobaton, a pinch-hitter and Span due up against Kimbrel. The Nats need two runs to avoid falling out of first place.
10:11 p.m. — Sweet. Fancy. Moses. Anthony Rendon blasts a game-tying, 2-run homer with two outs in the ninth off Kimbrel. The umps initially ruled it a double, but a very quick review confirmed it was a home run. We’re going to extra innings here, 4-4.
10:20 p.m. — A 1-2-3 top of the 10th from Rafael Soriano. So it’s now Zimmerman, Desmond and Espinosa against the left-handed Luis Avilan. That’s a good matchup for the Nats.
10:29 p.m. — And the Nats go down in order. So we go to the 11th, and here’s Tyler Clippard, who has a couple of demons he’d like to exorcise against the Braves.
10:41 p.m. — Three up, three down. Demons exorcised, for now. Bottom of the 11th upcoming, and Juan Jaime (who once upon a time was a Nats prospect) will make his major-league debut. He throws 100 mph.
11:01 p.m. — Despite a great, 10-pitch walk drawn by Span with two outs, Rendon couldn’t produce another dramatic hit. He struck out looking to end the 11th. So we go to the 12th, and it’ll be Jerry Blevins in from the bullpen. The Nats still have Aaron Barrett and Ross Detwiler available after him.
11:10 p.m. — And a 1-2-3 top of the 12th for Blevins, who ended it with a crazy 1-3 groundout. For the second straight night, he took a comebacker off his leg. This time, the ball rolled right to LaRoche, who stepped on first to end the inning. To the bottom of the 12th we go, with another Braves reliever (Ryan Buchter) making his MLB debut.
11:19 p.m. — To the 13th…
11:34 p.m. — Well, so much for that. The Braves have taken the lead back, thanks to a walk by B.J. Upton and singles by Freeman and Gattis off Blevins. Then when Espinosa bobbled a potential double play ball, another run scored. So it’s 6-4 Atlanta, and the Nats again are down to their last three outs.
11:40 p.m. — Game over. The Nats lose 6-4 in 13, truly a heartbreaker after the 9th inning rally. So they’ve lost 20 of 27 to the Braves, and they now trail Atlanta by 1/2-game in the NL East.
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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