Apr 13, 2014, 4:32 PM EDT
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: The Nationals arrived at Turner Field today reeling from injuries to Ryan Zimmerman and Denard Span and from back-to-back losses to a Braves club that has completely owned them the last two seasons. Could they find a way to salvage one weekend victory against their division rivals, as they did last Sunday in D.C.? Uh, no.
Gio Gonzalez was tagged for six early runs, once again putting the Nationals in a big hole in Atlanta, and the rest was pretty much academic. Down early and unable to mount any kind of rally against veteran right-hander Aaron Harang, the Nats slogged their way through their third straight loss this weekend, leaving them ever-searching for an answer against the Braves.
The Nationals are now 1-5 vs. Atlanta this season, 6-0 against everyone else. Dating back to last season, they’re 7-18 against the Braves, who have perhaps gotten into their heads along the way.
HITTING LOWLIGHT: The Nationals had gobs of opportunities during Saturday night’s loss but couldn’t deliver, going 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position. They didn’t even give themselves many chances on Sunday against Harang, who cruised through his six innings. The only run came in the fifth on Kevin Frandsen’s double, Danny Espinosa’s bunt single and an RBI groundout by Jose Lobaton. Otherwise, a Nationals lineup that is going to have to scratch and claw without Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos for awhile came up woefully short this afternoon.
PITCHING LOWLIGHT: Knowing his team needing him to come up big today, Gonzalez instead fell flat. The left-hander was battered around early, putting himself in a first-inning jam with a walk and poor throw on a bunt attempt. Justin Upton made him pay by crushing a home run to straightaway center. The Braves then hit for the cycle in the bottom of the second, with Gonzalez serving up another towering homer to Freddie Freeman that essentially put this game out of reach early. To his credit, Gonzalez managed to slog his way through six innings and not give up anything else. If nothing else, he kept the bullpen from being burned up and perhaps helped his team out later this week. But silver linings aside, the Nationals needed better from their No. 2 starter today, and they didn’t get it.
KEY STAT: The Braves outscored the Nationals 14-1 in the first two innings of this weekend’s games.
UP NEXT: The Nationals will happily head out of Atlanta and down to Miami, where a three-game series at Marlins Park awaits. Jordan Zimmermann and Brad Hand face off in a rematch of Wednesday’s game in D.C., one in which Zimmermann was knocked out after a career-low 1 2/3 innings but saw his teammates rally to win 10-7 on Jayson Werth’s eighth-inning grand slam.
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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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