Apr 13, 2014, 11:46 AM EDT
ATLANTA — The Nationals are a beaten-up bunch right now. Both in the physical sense, given the mounting injuries that culminated last night with Ryan Zimmerman fracturing his right thumb. And in the pure baseball sense, too, given two straight losses to the Braves to begin this weekend and four losses in five head-to-head games so far this season.
So the challenge today is to overcome all of that and leave town with at least one victory against their division rivals before heading to Miami for the rest of this road trip. Gio Gonzalez gets the ball, hoping to reverse some not-so-great history against Atlanta (2-6, 4.88 ERA in nine career starts).
The Nats have another new face on the bench, with infielder Zach Walters recalled from Class AAA Syracuse to take Zimmerman’s roster spot. Zim was in the clubhouse this morning with a splint on his thumb, in good spirits. So, too, was Denard Span, who says he’s feeling OK and hopes to return as soon as he’s eligible to come off the 7-day concussion DL. Check the homepage for a full story on those guys in a little while.
And check back here for game updates throughout…
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at ATLANTA BRAVES
Where: Turner Field
Gametime: 1:35 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM, XM 184, MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 78 degrees, Wind 11 mph out to LF
3B Anthony Rendon
CF Nate McLouth CF Bryce Harper
RF Jayson Werth
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
LF Bryce Harper LF Kevin Frandsen
2B Danny Espinosa
C Jose Lobaton
LHP Gio Gonzalez
RF Jason Heyward
CF B.J. Upton
1B Freddie Freeman
LF Justin Upton
SS Andrelton Simmons
C Gerald Laird
3B Ramiro Pena
2B Tyler Pastornicky
RHP Aaron Harang
HP Angel Hernandez
1B Paul Nauert
2B Adrian Johnson
3B Larry Vanover (cc)
1:00 p.m. — Lineup change for the Nats. Nate McLouth has been scratched, no reason given yet by the Nationals. So Bryce Harper moves to center field and up to the 2-spot in the lineup, with Kevin Frandsen now in left field batting sixth.
1:36 p.m. — We are underway with a ball outside from Aaron Harang to Anthony Rendon.
1:46 p.m. — Nothing much for the Nats in the top of the first, but two encouraging signs: 1) Bryce Harper drew another walk, meaning he has reached base in 11 of his last 22 plate appearances since Wednesday night’s towering home run in D.C. Appears to be seeing the ball much better. 2) Jayson Werth smoked a ball to deep left-center. It was caught by Jason Heyward, but still it’s good to see Werth hit the ball like that and show no ill effects of the groin tweak that kept him out of last night’s lineup.
2:00 p.m. — Well, here we go again. The Braves pounced on Gio Gonzalez for three runs in the bottom of the first. A leadoff walk to Heyward and then a botched throw/catch on B.J. Upton’s sacrifice bunt attempt didn’t help, but Justin Upton’s towering homer to center field was the biggest blow. It’s 3-0 after one, but really this is nothing new. The Nats have now been outscored 11-1 in the first two innings of this series. They’ve had to play from behind the entire weekend. Not an easy way to go about things.
2:21 p.m. — Make it 14-1, 6-0 today after Gio gave up a triple to Tyler Pastornicky, a double to Heyward and a moonshot homer to Freddie Freeman in the bottom of the second. This is beyond unreal.
2:30 p.m. — Harper has reached base in both plate appearances today, but he just ran himself into an out to end the top of the third. Seemed like a classic case of Bryce trying to make up for everything else that’s gone wrong in one fell swoop. And that usually doesn’t work. Still 6-0 heading to the bottom of the third.
2:48 p.m. — Things have settled down here somewhat, with Gonzalez tossing two scoreless innings to keep this a 6-0 deficit after four. He did give up a hit to B.J. Upton in the fourth, with Harper misplaying the ball in center for an error. And then he drilled Freeman in the right hand with a fastball, bringing trainers out to look at the Braves first baseman. But he stayed in the game and appears to be OK.
2:56 p.m. — One bright spot on an otherwise bleak afternoon: Kevin Frandsen has a pair of hits and is now 7-for-13 with two walks as a National. Frandsen wound up scoring on Jose Lobaton’s groundout, so the Nats trim the lead to 6-1 in the fifth.
3:12 p.m. — He’s been all over the place, but Gio has managed to get through the fifth without surrendering any more runs. The fact he’s made it this far, I suppose, is encouraging. Still 6-1 heading to the sixth.
3:25 p.m. — Jayson Werth had some words for Angel Hernandez after getting called out on an inside pitch in the top of the sixth. The pitch was legitimately inside, but Hernandez has consistently been calling that one all day. Check out his strikezone map, courtesy the great folks at BrooksBaseball.net.
3:48 p.m. — Props to Gio for slogging his way through six innings today and not burning up the bullpen. It won’t show up in the final score today, but it will help this team the rest of the week. Ross Detwiler now on the mound and Steven Souza Jr. now making his big-league debut in left field. He’s a big, strong, toolsy outfielder who really impressed this spring. Still 6-1 Braves at the stretch.
4:00 p.m. — First major-league at-bat for Souza, who struck out. Harper did draw another walk, meaning he has reached base four times today and in 14 of his last 25 plate appearances since Wednesday night’s towering home run. But Werth struck out looking again, so the Nats are down to their last three outs, still trailing 6-1.
4:23 p.m. — Brutal weekend at shortstop for Desmond, who now has been charged with five errors in 12 games this season. This latest one led to four unearned runs, with Simmons taking Detwiler deep to center for a 3-run bomb to add insult to injury. To the ninth we go, the Nats now down 10-1.
4:31 p.m. — That’s it. Nats lose 10-2 after LaRoche homered in the ninth. They get swept this weekend. They’re 1-5 vs. Braves this season, 6-0 against everyone else. On to Miami…
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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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