Aug 10, 2014, 11:16 PM EST
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: On the heels of their marathon, rain-delayed, 11-inning win early Sunday morning, the Nationals were grateful for a nationally televised Sunday night appearance at Turner Field. But they showed up a bit sluggish, especially at the plate against a very tough young Braves left-hander.
Alex Wood dominated the Nationals’ lineup, allowing only Ian Desmond’s solo homer in the fourth but otherwise pitching brilliantly, striking out 12 over 7 1/3 innings that required 124 pitches. Gio Gonzalez wasn’t nearly as effective, serving up a solo homer to Justin Upton in the fourth and then letting the go-ahead run score in the fifth when he forgot to cover first base on a groundball to the right side.
Jerry Blevins tried to keep the deficit at one but gave up an insurance run on his 36th pitch out of the bullpen. Needing to mount a rally against an overworked Braves relief corps, the Nationals came up short. Craig Kimbrel finished it off, giving Atlanta the weekend series but sending the Nats out of town still holding a 3 1/2-game lead in the NL East.
HITTING LOWLIGHT: The Nationals did have some chances against Wood but squandered them. Particularly frustrated was Adam LaRoche, who entered red-hot for the month of August but wound up striking out four times, stranding five men on base in the process. That was a disappointing night for the Nationals’ cleanup hitter on a disappointing night altogether.
PITCHING LOWLIGHT: What a bizarre start for Gonzalez. The first six outs he recorded were all via strikeout, but sprinkled in between were two walks and a single, setting the stage for what was to come. Gonzalez served up a solo homer to Upton on a 3-2 changeup in the fourth and began to see his pitch count skyrocket. By the time he reached the fifth, he was gassed, with a pitch count into triple digits. Even so, Gonzalez appeared to get out of a big jam that would’ve kept the game tied at 1, only to fail to cover first base on a grounder to the right side. As Danny Espinosa scooped up the ball, he had nobody to throw it to, as the go-ahead run crossed the plate. It was a major mental mistake by Gonzalez, and it cost his team dearly.
STREAK WATCH: Denard Span once again kept his torrid streak alive in impressive fashion. With a fifth-inning double off the wall in right-center, Span has now reached base in 36 straight games (five shy of Ryan Zimmerman’s club record) while recording a hit in 14 straight games.
KEY STAT: Freddie Freeman is hitting .481 (25-for-52) against the Nationals this season and .263 (105-for-400) against everybody else.
UP NEXT: The Nationals will get a day off in the Big Apple, then open a 3-game series Tuesday night at Citi Field. Doug Fister was supposed to face Jacob deGrom, but the Mets’ rookie has shoulder soreness and will be replaced by a pitcher still to be determined.
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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