Aug 8, 2014, 4:13 PM EDT
ATLANTA — Hello from Turner Field, which doesn’t exactly look ready for baseball at this moment. It has been absolutely pouring here for the last hour, and there’s no let-up in sight. Really, the whole weekend looks bad, so who knows what that means for this crucial, 3-game series between the Nationals and Braves.
If they play tonight, it’ll be Stephen Strasburg on the mound for the Nats, trying to exorcise his Atlanta demons. He’s got a 5.79 ERA in six career starts here, including early departures for events as varied as heat exhaustion, a strained oblique muscle and ejection for intentionally throwing at Braves hitters.
Ervin Santana starts for Atlanta, which as you well know by now is mired in an 8-game losing streak and now opens a 10-game stretch against nothing but first-place opponents (the Nationals, Dodgers and Athletics).
Jayson Werth is not in the Nats’ lineup. He’s been bothered the last few days by a shoulder issue. We’ll see if that has gotten worse.
I’ll pass along any weather updates I get, and of course I’ll have plenty of game updates if and when they play…
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at ATLANTA BRAVES
Where: Turner Field
Gametime: 7:35 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM, XM 869, MLB.com
Weather: Thunderstorms, 85 degrees, Wind 6 mph RF to LF
CF Denard Span
2B Asdrubal Cabrera
3B Anthony Rendon
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
LF Bryce Harper
C Wilson Ramos
RF Steven Souza Jr.
RHP Stephen Strasburg
CF B.J. Upton
2B Tommy La Stella
1B Freddie Freeman
LF Justin Upton
RF Jason Heyward
C Evan Gattis
3B Chris Johnson
SS Ramiro Pena
RHP Ervin Santana
HP Gerry Davis (cc)
1B Greg Gibson
2B Phil Cuzzi
3B Will Little
6:30 p.m. — Your weather update: The skies have actually cleared and there is some blue poking through the clouds at the moment. Though neither team was able to take BP outside, they’re preparing the field for the game to start on time. Keep your fingers crossed.
7:36 p.m. — And we are underway, on-time after all that. Not bad.
7:40 p.m. — Ervin Santana retires the side in the top of the first, with relative ease. Denard Span, looking to extend his streak to 34 straight games reaching base, worked to a full count but then lofted a flyball to right. Asdrubal Cabrera, batting second for the first time since joining the Nats, tried to put down a bunt but it traveled only about 8 feet in front of the plate, so he was thrown out. And Anthony Rendon struck out swinging at a breaking ball down and away. Here’s Stephen Strasburg taking the mound for the bottom of the first.
7:53 p.m. — Well, if that first inning didn’t just encapsulate Strasburg’s season to date, I don’t know what would. He started off brilliantly, striking out B.J. Upton and getting Tommy LaStella to ground out, firing his first six pitches for strikes (five of them fastballs). But then he lost Freddie Freeman and walked him on a full count. And then he grooved an 0-1 fastball to Justin Upton, who launched it over the center-field fence for a 2-run homer. As has so often been the case this season, opponents crushed Strasburg’s fastball. The inning continued to spiral from there, with Jason Heyward drawing a walk and then taking second on an errant pickoff throw from Strasburg. That was the extent of the damage, but the Nats find themselves down 2-0 already, as some unsettling and longstanding trends continue here in Atlanta.
8:14 p.m. — And it only gets worse. Strasburg served up two more homers in the bottom of the second. B.J. Upton launched a curveball to left for his first home run 157 plate appearances. Then Freeman crushed a high fastball to right for the Braves’ third 2-run homer of the night. This one, though, also resulted in Steven Souza Jr. slamming into the fence and crumpling to the ground in a heap. It looked awful, but somehow Souza got to his feet and stayed in the game. So it’s 6-0 Braves after two innings, and this has pretty much been a nightmare start to the evening for Strasburg and the Nats.
8:21 p.m. — Meanwhile, Santana has retired all nine batters faced so far tonight. So, yeah, this one’s not really going too well so far. And now Souza has been taken out of the game, with Harper moving to right field (where he got hurt on a very similar play last season) and Kevin Frandsen taking over left field.
8:47 p.m. — In better news: Span led off the fourth with a solid single to right. That extended his streak to 34 consecutive games reaching base. He also has a 12-game hit streak. The bad news: After Cabrera drew a walk, giving the Nats their first scoring threat of the night, they were down in order, failing to advance either runner. So we go to the bottom of the fourth, it’s still 6-0. There’s heavy rain approaching from the west, but whether it gets here before this game becomes official one inning from now remains to be seen.
8:54 p.m. — So, all of a sudden, Strasburg has retired seven straight batters, five of them via strikeout. Go figure. We head to the fifth, and the rain has returned. This game is three outs from becoming official, still 6-0 Atlanta.
8:58 p.m. — So much for that. The game is now official after a quick top of the fifth in which Harper drew a walk but was immediately erased on a Ramos double play. Frandsen smoked a liner to right, but it was caught. So it’s 6-0 in the middle of the fifth. The rain remains light for now, but the heavy stuff is approaching.
9:08 p.m. — Home run No. 4 of the night off Strasburg comes courtesy Tommy LaStella, who crushed a fastball to right-center. And yes, that’s his first career homer. It’s 7-0 after five.
9:21 p.m. — So, um, we may actually have a game here again. The Nats just scored four runs in the top of the sixth, with Rendon’s 3-run bomb to left-center the highlight. Just like that, it’s a 7-4 game.
9:24 p.m. — Except now we’re in a rain delay. Ross Detwiler took the mound to start the bottom of the sixth, but the rain picked up considerably, so they called for the tarp. If it was still 7-0, I’d say this thing would be called after 45 minutes. But now that it’s 7-4 … well, we could be here awhile.
10:11 p.m. — The rain has eased up, the tarp has been rolled up and we’re set to resume play at 10:30 p.m.
10:34 p.m. — And, as promised, we’re back after a 1-hour, 11-minute delay. Detwiler on the mound for the bottom of the sixth, the Nats trailing 7-4.
10:42 p.m. — And a scoreless sixth from Detwiler, who pitched around a 2-out single by pinch-hitter Phil Gosselin. Desmond made a whale of a play on Pena’s grounder deep into the hole at short, then firing across the diamond to get him by a step. It’ll be Anthony Varvaro in from the Braves bullpen to pitch the top of the seventh.
10:58 p.m. — We’ve got a ballgame here, folks. Ramos crushed a solo homer to lead off the seventh, cutting the lead to 7-5. Then a couple of errors, another Span single (he’s now hitting .304) and a sac fly by Cabrera made it 7-6. They had the tying run at second base but couldn’t get him home when Rendon smoked the first pitch he saw from Jordan Walden right at Upton in center field. So they still trail by a run heading to the bottom of the seventh.
11:07 p.m. — Two scoreless innings of relief from Detwiler. Onto the eighth, with LaRoche, Desmond and Harper due up against Walden, still 7-6 Atlanta.
11:14 p.m. — A 1-2-3 inning from Walden slowed down the Nats’ momentum. Now they’re down to their last three outs, with Craig Kimbrel looming in the ninth. First up, it’s Tyler Clippard pitching the bottom of the eighth.
11:21 p.m. — A scoreless inning from Clippard, so the Nats bullpen has done its job. It’s now up to Ramos, Frandsen and a pinch-hitter against Kimbrel in the ninth. You have to wonder if Jayson Werth is available. The only other options are Jose Lobaton and a left-handed Danny Espinosa.
11:34 p.m. — That’ll do it. The Nats’ hopes of an epic comeback fall short. They rallied from 7-0 down to make it 7-6, but that’s as far as they could get. They drop the opener of this series, and their lead in the NL East is back to 3 1/2 games.
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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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