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Instant analysis: Braves 6, Nats 4 (13)

Jun 20, 2014, 11:40 PM EDT

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GAME IN A NUTSHELL: How do you put an end to a dominant streak by one club over yours, one that may have gotten into to your heads? How about a stunning, bottom-of-the-ninth rally against the best closer in the game? Unfortunately, that only works if you then finish things off with the winning run in extra innings, which the Nationals couldn’t do late Friday night.

Despite getting Anthony Rendon’s 2-run, game-tying homer off Craig Kimbrel with two outs in the ninth, the Nats still wound up losing again to the Braves in extra innings. Evan Gattis’ RBI single off Jerry Blevins in the top of the 13th, followed by a misplay by Danny Espinosa that allowed another run to score, put Atlanta back on top and ultimately sent the Nationals to their 20th loss to their rivals in 27 games over the last two years.

The Nats had looked lifeless through most of the game, shut down by Mike Minor while Stephen Strasburg was roughed up for four runs in six innings. They looked headed to yet another loss to Atlanta, their 20th in 27 head-to-head meetings over the last two seasons. But then came the bottom of the ninth, and suddenly the script flipped for a moment. Drew Storen, Craig Stammen, Rafael Soriano, Tyler Clippard and Blevins combined to toss six scoreless innings in relief of Strasburg, but their teammates couldn’t push across the winning run.

Thus, the Nationals fell out of first place in the NL East. They now trail the Braves by 1/2-game, and they once again have to wonder what in the world they have to do to beat this team.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: The ninth-inning rally was sparked by Nate McLouth, who drew a leadoff walk. After Greg Dobbs and Denard Span each popped up, Rendon stepped to the plate. He worked to a 2-1 count, then blasted Kimbrel’s pitch deep to left-center. Umpires initially ruled it a double, but as the crowd held its collective breath, a video review made it obvious the ball cleared the fence by a wide margin. Rendon circled the bases, the crowd roared and the Nationals had their biggest hit of the season, when they needed it most.

PITCHING LOWLIGHT: Strasburg needed 107 pitches to complete six innings — a whopping 98 pitches just to get through the fifth — yet incredibly he didn’t issue any walks. How was that possible? Well, the Braves did a remarkable job battling against him and then delivering big hits deep in the count. Six of their nine hits came with two strikes, including a string of three straight in the top of the fifth. That hasn’t been a common occurrence for Strasburg: Opponents had been hitting .156 with two strikes against the right-hander this season. Tonight, though, the Braves came up big when they needed to, and so Strasburg paid the price.

KEY STAT: Kimbrel has now blown four saves in 23 career opportunities against the Nationals. He hadn’t given up a homer with a man on base against anybody since 2011.

UP NEXT: A national audience on Fox will be watching as Doug Fister takes the mound against Julio Teheran on Saturday night. Note the special 7:15 p.m. scheduled first pitch.

  1. Zona - Jun 20, 2014 at 11:43 PM

    Feels like a double kick in the gut. Getting way too old.

  2. David Proctor - Jun 20, 2014 at 11:45 PM

    I’m at a loss. The law of averages says we have to beat them sometime. The team fights. I don’t believe the Braves are in their head as much as people act. If they were, they would’ve gone down 1-2-3 in the 9th. But there is just something about the Braves that befuddles us. We just can’t beat them. It defies reason.

  3. dcwx61 - Jun 20, 2014 at 11:45 PM

    long season,,,,esp when we play the braves

  4. Mrsb loves the Nats - Jun 20, 2014 at 11:46 PM

    Beyond…. livid…. Hard to discuss seeing as how MW had either Blevins or Det… But didnt Blevins give a hit to FD last night… He WALKED BJ UPTON….

    Beyond livid….

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Jun 20, 2014 at 11:46 PM

      FF*

      And why the hell is Det on ty team when it’s obvious Blevins had nothing… I am so pissed… I can’t even….

  5. veejh - Jun 20, 2014 at 11:48 PM

    MW sometimes manages like an azz clown. Barrett? Why not? Blev making it through 1 inning is a miracle. 2, talk about rolling the dice on a LOOGY. Stupid.

    • David Proctor - Jun 20, 2014 at 11:53 PM

      Barrett had pitched the last three night and was unavailable. And it’s not like Barrett was wasted in those outings, he came in to high-leverage spots. I agree that asking Blevins for another inning was stupid, though I’m not sure Det would’ve been much better. Not many options in the 13th.

      • veejh - Jun 20, 2014 at 11:54 PM

        Yeah…just realized.

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Jun 20, 2014 at 11:56 PM

        Drained the bigger question…. You’d rather use an obviously tired reliever against the heart of the order than Det…. So why the hell is he still on the team….

        Nats signed Blevins as a counter attack against Freddie Freeman… He has yet to win that battle…

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Jun 20, 2014 at 11:56 PM

        Drained is supposed to be raises*

      • dcwx61 - Jun 21, 2014 at 12:00 AM

        yep and Blevins wasn’t one of them

    • dcwx61 - Jun 20, 2014 at 11:55 PM

      Lets see what Mr Denial has to say
      Managers earn their pay in the decisions they make in close and extra inning games.
      Because there is no room for error then.

  6. dcwx61 - Jun 20, 2014 at 11:52 PM

    Well i’m on the big downer the nationals,
    and I’m cruisin thru mediocre teams
    i have a charted a course for the playoffs
    but tonight I am second place bound

  7. veejh - Jun 20, 2014 at 11:53 PM

    Hmmmm..didn’t realize Barrett pitched 3 in a row prior. Still….

  8. veejh - Jun 20, 2014 at 11:55 PM

    Fister tomorrow? Need a solid 8 gem from him.

    • dcwx61 - Jun 20, 2014 at 11:58 PM

      esp. against Julio
      Maybe the opposite will happen.
      Tonight the best reliever in baseball blows it, but two rookie relievers shut them down.

      • David Proctor - Jun 21, 2014 at 12:10 AM

        Pitchers have the advantage the first time you see them so the rookies doing well didn’t surprise me. Still no excuse for doing absolutely nothing against Avilan, who they have seen. Or Minor for that matter.

  9. David Proctor - Jun 21, 2014 at 12:01 AM

    Fister hasn’t been part of this “rivalry” so maybe he’ll be good luck tomorrow. That’s all I got for optimism.

  10. 6ID20 - Jun 21, 2014 at 12:05 AM

    Fox game tomorrow. MLBN game last night. Nats don’t play well in national TV games. Playing the Braves. Doesn’t look good.

  11. habs3 - Jun 21, 2014 at 12:24 AM

    The problem is hitting. If you want to beat the Braves you need to fix this problem. I think it is a little too late to fix it this year. We can pray that we get hot every once in a while so as to win the odd series.

    Maybe we get lucky on Saturday and Sunday. As they say “even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every once in awhile”.

  12. NatsLady - Jun 21, 2014 at 1:25 AM

    I find it difficult to blame Blevins, who was on his second inning, and had just pitched last night. It’s clear to me that the fault lies with the hitters, with Werth and Ryan Zimmerman in particular, who let chance after chance slip away. Werth let the ump get to him, starting with his strikeout in the first inning. He’s a pro, he needed to get past that and he didn’t.

    RZ not only let chances slip away, he actively drove them away by hitting into double plays. And when he did elevate, there was no power behind it, just lazy fly balls. Rendon also took a terrible at-bat earlier, fouling out on the first pitch (before the HR). You except Leon to be useless, but Lobaton was terrible. And jeez, cut Dobbs already, willya?

    Well, of course, part of the fault lies with Stras, who gave up four runs and only went six. And Mike Minor was NOT Gavin Floyd. Minor was hittable, he doesn’t have great stuff, but once it was 4-1 he didn’t nibble he just went for it. And what was the pitch selection Stras was using??? That was very strange.

    Let me tell you, though, that was a GREAT feeling when Rendon got to Kimbrel after Kimbrel WALKED THE LEADOFF HITTER! And then he walked Werth, and I was so much hoping we’d win it right then and there.

    • rmoore446 - Jun 21, 2014 at 7:25 AM

      +1

    • Joe Seamhead - Jun 21, 2014 at 8:49 AM

      When we traded for Blevins it was said that he wasn’t just a lefty specialist, but a durable guy that could go multiple innings, and that he actually had better splits against RH ed batters last year. So Williams should be able to get more than one inning out of him. I wasn’t sold of him the day we made the trade, yet he looked good in several key situations before last night.But to say it’s difficult to blame him for last night after he gave up the lead off walk to .205 BJ Upton? I not only have no problem blaming him, I am all the back to feeling the way I did the day we made the trade for him; i.e. I’m not sold on him.
      A bigger question I had was a decision that Williams made earlier that actually worked out , and that was to bring Clippard in to face Justin Heyward to start the 11th inning. Heyward now has a .career 556 BA against Clippard. Earlier in the year in the same situation, Heyward clocked Tyler. I thought it made more sense to bring Blevins in then. That’s why we got him. My hat’s off to Tyler for the job he did, but it was still a very questionable, low percentage call by Matt Williams.

  13. destcl - Jun 21, 2014 at 1:41 AM

    I don’t think the issue is the Braves per se or the Cardinals per se. I think it’s pressure. These guys play to their abilities — or something close to that — in the normal course of events. But then the Braves come to town, or they fly into St. Louis, and the hitters get tight and all their worst habits take over. They take pitches they should smack, or at least foul off, and flail at pitches two feet outside the strike zone. All the streaky hitters — and we have a lot of them — take nosedives that would make a synchronized swimming team proud.

    Mark my words, though, the minute they’re out of the running for this year’s division title, they’ll all come alive together. They’ll put together a nice little winning streak, one that allows them to start talking about how they’ve salvaged their pride, shown what stern stuff they’re made of, and just wait till next year.

    I hate thinking this, but we’ve changed managers, changed the mindset and the approach, and the results are still the same. These guys get tight when the chips are down. There’s no other answer. That’s what we’ve seen, consistently, for the last 21 months.

    • topnat - Jun 21, 2014 at 9:06 AM

      I agree. But how do you learn to deal with the pressure? You keep playing. I for one am looking forward to a tight division race all year. 2012, big lead late in the season ,no pressure. 2013, out of it late, no pressure and good results. If you are good enough, with enough chances you deal with it and break through. Are they good enough? Maybe. I’d like see these close games with 8 at bats from Harper and Ramos. Just keep plugging away boys. The answers are in there somewhere.

  14. natsfan24 - Jun 21, 2014 at 8:32 AM

    destcl nailed it

  15. Barved - Jun 21, 2014 at 9:53 AM

    Aside from Rendon and Harper and maybe Span there’s not one player in the nats lineup that would start over their braves counterpart. If you want a reason the braves continue to beat us that’s the answer. Our lineup is filled with aging stars who have lost their power and some free swingers.

    • chaz11963 - Jun 21, 2014 at 11:25 AM

      What team are you exactly looking at- ? Filled with aging stars- ? Werth and LaRoche? LaRoche is having a great year and may arguably be our current best hitter. Werth has been hitting, his power numbers are way down, but he’s been hitting well for average, until the recent slump. I don’t really see anyone on the Braves that I would take over their counterpart on the Nats, possibly Freeman over LaRoche. That’s it.

  16. habs3 - Jun 21, 2014 at 2:20 PM

    How about the Gaddis for Lobaton.

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