Aug 10, 2014, 5:21 PM EDT
ATLANTA — Hello once again from Turner Field. Feels like I just left this place. Oh wait, I did! Thank god the Nationals and Braves are on Sunday Night Baseball, though, which afforded everybody the opportunity to sleep in this morning after last night’s rain-delayed, 11-inning affair that ended at 2:29 a.m.
There will be no shortage of storylines for ESPN to highlight during tonight’s broadcast. They’ll surely focus on Bryce Harper as he strides to the plate for the first time, zooming in on the sacred “A” in the dirt. And they’ll certainly make something of the Braves’ dominance of the Nationals over the last two years (though, it should be pointed out, the Nats have now won 3 of their last 4 head-to-head meetings).
Gio Gonzalez and Alex Wood square off in a matchup of lefties. The Nationals hope to have Jayson Werth back in the lineup after two straight nights battling shoulder and ankle ailments. They also have a new face on the active roster: Michael Taylor, the 23-year-old top outfield prospect, who officially was called up from Class AAA Syracuse today, with Steven Souza Jr. placed on the 15-day DL with a left shoulder contusion.
Plenty of updates to come, though hopefully there will be no need for weather updates tonight (despite a forecast that once again calls for scattered thunderstorms)…
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at ATLANTA BRAVES
Where: Turner Field
Gametime: 8:05 p.m. EDT
Radio: 92.7 FM, 94.3 FM, 106.7 FM, 980 AM, 1500 AM, XM 869, MLB.com
Weather: Thunderstorms, 78 degrees, Wind 5 mph in from RF
CF Denard Span
3B Anthony Rendon
RF Jayson Werth
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
LF Bryce Harper
C Wilson Ramos
2B Danny Espinosa
LHP Gio Gonzalez
CF Emilio Bonifacio
2B Tommy LaStella
1B Freddie Freeman
LF Justin Upton
RF Jason Heyward
3B Chris Johnson
C Gerald Laird
SS Ramiro Pena
LHP Alex Wood
HP Phil Cuzzi
1B Will Little
2B Gerry Davis (cc)
3B Greg Gibson
8:08 p.m. — And we’re underway, in front of a surprisingly sparse crowd here. I get that it’s a Sunday night and people have to work tomorrow, but there might be 15,000 people here for the start of a nationally televised game.
8:17 p.m. — A 1-out single for Anthony Rendon in the top of the first (he also stole second). But the most notable thing might well have been Jayson Werth’s swings on some outside pitches from Alex Wood. This is where his shoulder injury comes into play, and you could see how he just can’t drive those the way he normally does. He wound up lofting a lazy flyball to right for the second out of what proved to be a scoreless inning.
8:31 p.m. — Here is how Gio Gonzalez’s first inning went: He faced six batters, with only one putting the ball in play (Freddie Freeman, who — surprise! — singled to raise his season average against the Nats to .510). He walked two but struck out three, including Chris Johnson with the bases loaded to end a 29-pitch inning. Not the cleanest frame ever, but Gio got out of it unscathed. Scoreless after one.
8:45 p.m. — I can’t believe I actually paid attention to this, but Harper walked straight across the plate to the batter’s box for his first at-bat tonight, not coming within 10 feet of the logo. So much for that drama.
8:54 p.m. — This, however, is some serious drama: Through two innings, Gio has six strikeouts. Yes, he’s on pace for 27 strikeouts tonight. The odds of that actually happening is fairly slim, but it’s quite impressive nonetheless.
9:08 p.m. — Well, Gonzalez recorded two outs on balls in play in the bottom of the third, so we won’t see 27 strikeouts tonight. He did, however, whiff Freeman to end the inning, so he’s got 7 total Ks through three in what remains a scoreless game.
9:15 p.m. — Ian Desmond puts the Nats on the board with an opposite-field homer, an absolute bullet to right-center off Wood to lead off the fourth. That’s his 19th of the season, and though it was the only hit for the Nats in the inning, it preceded well-struck drives to the warning track by both Harper and Espinosa. 1-0 Nats in the middle of the fourth.
9:32 p.m. — But the Braves strike back in the bottom of the fourth. Gonzalez tried to sneak a 3-2 changeup past Justin Upton, then watched as the ball sailed into the left field stands. That’s Upton’s 1,000th career hit and 500th career RBI. Not a bad way to reach both milestones. Gio is now up to a staggering 88 pitches after four innings in a 1-1 game.
9:44 p.m. — Denard Span keeps on rolling. He doubled off the wall in right-center in the top of the fifth, extending his streak to 36 straight games reaching base and 14 games with a hit. The Nats, though, couldn’t advance him. Fredi Gonzalez elected to intentionally walk Werth and pitch to the red-hot LaRoche, but Wood has had his number tonight and struck LaRoche out for the third time. To the bottom of the fifth, still 1-1.
10:03 p.m. — Well that wasn’t good. Just when it looked like Gio would pitch his way out of a jam in the bottom of the fifth, he made a major mental mistake that cost him and the Nats. With runners on first and third and two out, Gonzalez failed to cover first base on a grounder to the right side that got past LaRoche but was scooped up by Espinosa, who had nobody to throw to. That brought a run home and ended Gio’s wild night. His final line: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 8 K, 1 HR, 111 pitches. Good lord. It’s 2-1 Braves heading to the sixth.
10:23 p.m. — Craig Stammen has put out the fire for now, but the Nats can’t get to Alex Wood. They still trail 2-1 heading to the seventh.
10:36 p.m. — Span doubled again with two outs in the seventh, giving the Nats a chance to tie this game up, but Rendon (after a tough check-swing call) flew out to right. So Wood is through seven innings on 114 pitches and the Nats still trail 2-1 at the stretch.
10:44 p.m. — Jerry Blevins just struck out the side in the eighth, getting LaStella, Freeman and Upton in order. I repeat: Jerry Blevins just struck out the side. I witnessed it with my own eyes. Nice job by the lefty to keep this a 2-1 game. And now Wood is taking the mound for the eighth despite a pitch count of 114. The Braves bullpen is taxed.
10:51 p.m. — Wood walked Werth to open the eighth, but he then struck out LaRoche for the fourth time tonight, then departed to a rousing ovation. In came David Carpenter to face Desmond, who didn’t exactly make the right-hander work. Desmond grounded the very first pitch to short for a killer 6-4-3 double play. So it’s still 2-1 and the Nats are now down to their last three outs.
11:09 p.m. — Blevins gave up a huge insurance run in the eighth, but it’s hard to blame him for that. He struck out five batters in two innings and had his pitch count up to 29, only to be left in to face Evan Gattis. That’s not an advantageous spot for Blevins. And though he battled well, he gave up a bloop single to the big guy, making this a 3-1 game as Craig Kimbrel enters for the ninth.
11:15 p.m. — Ballgame. Nats lose 3-1 and drop the series. They still remain 3 1/2 games up in the division, though, as they head out of town.
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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)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
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