Jun 21, 2014, 3:39 PM EST
There are perhaps two ways to look at last night’s game from the Nationals’ perspective. On one hand, they lost to the Braves, yet again, perhaps in a fashion more excruciating than any previous loss to Atlanta this year. On the other hand, they staged a fairly epic rally in the bottom of the ninth to tie it, with Anthony Rendon becoming the first player to hit anything more than a solo homer off Craig Kimbrel since 2011. If you want to take the glass-half-full approach, the Nats at least know they can get to Kimbrel, should the situation arise again.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though. The ninth inning tonight won’t mean anything if the first eight innings don’t go well. So there’s some pressure on Doug Fister to put forth a strong effort in his first career start against the Braves. And there’s some pressure on the Nationals lineup to do some damage against Atlanta ace Julio Teheran.
A reminder that tonight’s game is on Fox; it’s actually the lead game, with Joe Buck, Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci on the call. Most of the country will get this game. Here’s a coverage map if you’d like to check it out…
ATLANTA BRAVES at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:15 p.m. EDT
TV: FOX (coverage map), MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM, XM 89, MLB.com
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 75 degrees, Wind 7 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 Doug Fister
2B Tommy La Stella
CF B.J. Upton
1B Freddie Freeman
C Evan Gattis
RF Jason Heyward
LF Justin Upton
3B Chris Johnson
SS Andrelton Simmons
RHP Julio Teheran
HP Clint Fagan
1B Mark Carlson
2B Tim Welke (cc)
3B Todd Tichenor
7:16 p.m. — And we’re underway on a surprisingly chilly late-June evening in the District. Doug Fister fires strike one to Tommy La Stella to get this one started.
7:23 p.m. — Just like that, the Braves had runners on the corners and one out against Fister, as the ballpark began to get restless. But Fister was able to get Evan Gattis to pop out, and then Danny Espinosa made a heck of a play sliding to his backhand side and then throwing to Ian Desmond for the force out that got the Nats out of the jam unscathed. Impressive play there by Espinosa.
7:30 p.m. — The Nats got a 1-out single by Rendon in the bottom of the first, but that was it. Freddie Freeman made a fantastic, over-the-shoulder catch while sliding toward the tarp on Jayson Werth’s foul-pop. Adam LaRoche then lofted a flyball to left on the first pitch he saw. So that was only six pitches thrown by Julio Teheran to four Nats hitters. Did they step to the plate with an aggressive gameplan against the right-hander, or did they simply become overaggressive once they dug in?
7:43 p.m. — Well, the Nationals took a few more pitches in the bottom of the second, but the end result was still a 1-2-3 inning for Teheran. Zimmerman struck out, and he’s now hitting .194 with a .544 OPS in 18 games since coming off the DL. Not good. Desmond struck out as well before Espinosa lined a ball right at Heyward in right field. To the third inning we go in a scoreless game.
7:51 p.m. — Fister, meanwhile, has cruised through three scoreless innings on only 36 pitches. Consider this: At the same point last night, Stephen Strasburg had thrown 62 pitches … despite facing only one more batter! Amazing.
8:06 p.m. — Rendon delivers yet another clutch hit, this time a 2-out single to center to drive in the night’s first run. Nice slide by Jose Lobaton on the play, sneaking his left hand over the plate just before the tag after a strong throw by B.J. Upton. So the Nats take a 1-0 lead after three.
8:28 p.m. — A couple of the Nationals’ big bats are really having trouble making contact right now. Werth is 0-for-2 tonight and is now 1 for his last 21 with 12 strikeouts. Desmond, meanwhile, has struck out twice tonight, giving him six K’s in 11 at-bats so far this series. Tough for them to score runs when those stalwarts aren’t even putting the ball in play. Still 1-0 Nats after four.
8:36 p.m. — Andrelton Simmons’ 1-out blooper to shallow left field gave the Braves their first hit since the top of the first, and he then moved to second on Teheran’s non-bunt non-sacrifice dribbler in front of the plate. But Fister came up bit with the man in scoring position and got La Stella to ground out to short to end the top of the fifth and preserve the Nats’ 1-0 lead.
9:00 p.m. — Nice job by Fister again to pitch out of a jam in the top of the sixth, getting Justin Upton to pop out and strand two men on base. He has been outstanding tonight, and he’s needed to be, because the Nats still have nothing other than Rendon’s RBI single back in the third. Still 1-0 heading to the bottom of the sixth.
9:17 p.m. — Teheran has been stepping off the mound all night, especially with runners on base, apparently having all kinds of trouble getting on the same page as Gattis. Well, it finally cost him because he was called for a balk on a particularly egregious move. That allowed LaRoche to advance to second base, and then moments later score on Zimmerman’s RBI single to center. Boy did Zim need that. He was hitting .191 with a .536 OPS since coming off the DL before that clutch hit. So the Nats have opened up a 2-0 lead as we go to the seventh.
9:27 p.m. — Make it seven scoreless innings for Fister, who is now at 101 pitches. He’s due up second in the bottom of the inning, the Nats still leading 2-0. What to do? Well, there’s nobody warming in the pen, so it looks like he’s staying in.
9:38 p.m. — You know, the fact Fister is so adept with the bat only helps make the decision to leave him in. He put down his second perfectly placed sac bunt just now, and that helped set the stage for another huge insurance run. Rendon drilled a double to deep center, scoring Lobaton and giving the Nats a 3-0 lead as Fister takes the mound for the eighth.
9:46 p.m. — That, folks, was a big-time start by Doug Fister. His line: 8 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K, 116 pitches. He got a standing ovation as he walked off after a 1-2-3 eighth. Still 3-0.
9:52 p.m. — That’s a Golden Sombrero for Desmond tonight. Not good. OK, here’s Rafael Soriano for the ninth, the Nats up 3-0.
10:00 p.m. — Ballgame. Nats win 3-0. They take back first place 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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