October 1, 2014

Washington Nationals Game 150 Review: Nats Clinch NL East with Commanding Win over Braves

EARN SECOND DIVISION CROWN IN THREE YEARS

For the second time in three years, the Washington Nationals are kings of the National League East and, come October, there will be baseball in the nation’s capital.

With a 3-0 win over the second-place division rival Atlanta Braves, the Nats clinched their spot atop an NL East that struggled to play catch-up through the bulk of the 2014 season.

As if to demonstrate how far the Nationals have progressed since April, the very team that struggled to top Atlanta even once through the first half of the season shut out the Braves to secure their ticket to October.

Even more, the starter who so many claimed would come back down to earth following the 2013 season, recorded his 14th win of 2014 after allowing just five hits over seven innings pitched. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 149 Review: NL East within Reach after Nats Top Braves

STRASBURG, RAMOS HELP NATS LOWER MAGIC NUMBER TO TWO

With their Magic Number now down to two games, the Washington Nationals could win their second NL East division title in three years Tuesday night should they continue to dominate against the Atlanta Braves.

Following a 4-2 win over their rivals Monday night, helped by a solid performance from Stephen Strasburg (W, 12-11), the Nats could very likely celebrate their 2014 playoff berth at Turner Field.

Despite reporting neck stiffness, Strasburg was sharp against a Braves team he frequently struggles to beat. Through 7.0 innings pitched, the Nationals right-hander allowed five total hits, no runs and no walks and struck out seven batters.

His one trouble spot came in the fifth inning when, after Jason Heyward led off with a single to right, Strasburg committed a throwing error in his attempt to pick off Heyward. Instead, Heyward made it all the way to third base on the error.

Fortunately for the Nats, Strasburg came up with three big outs to work out of the inning unscathed. After striking out Chris Johnson, Strasburg forced Christian Bethancourt to ground out to third, before B.J. Upton struck out to end the inning.

Before that point, the Nats had helped themselves to a two-run lead over Atlanta starter Ervin Santana (L, 14-9, thanks to a one-run double by Denard Span in the third and a lead-off solo shot by Wilson Ramos in the fifth. Ramos’ homer marked his 11th of the season.

With Luis Avilan on the mound in relief for Atlanta, Strasburg helped himself to another insurance run in the seventh inning.

After Nate Schierholtz drew a lead-off walk, Ramos lined out to center before Asdrubal Cabrera doubled to left. Then, Strasburg singled to center to plate Cabrera. The Nats threatened to tack on more runs as Span took first on a hit-by-pitch, but reliever Juan Jaime successfully struck out Anthony Rendon to end the inning.

The Nats earned one more run in the top of the eighth after Jayson Werth led off with a walk and came home by way of an Ian Desmond force out and Schierholtz RBI single.

After Craig Stammen delivered a solid eighth inning of relief, Rafael Soriano seemed to pine for his closer role. Having lost the job a few weeks ago, Soriano appeared in a would-be non-save situation in the ninth, only to immediately allow a double by Andrelton Simmons and a two-out, RBI double by Justin Upton.

Soriano got Heyward to fly out to left, but walked Chris Johnson, allowing the tying run to step to the plate.

Not surprisingly, Nationals manager Matt Williams opted to pitch Drew Storen for the save situation. Storen allowed an RBI single to Bethancourt, but successfully forced B.J. Upton ground out to end the game.

 

THE GOOD: Stephen Strasburg has without a doubt struggled against the Atlanta Braves this season, but he showed no signs of bad habits when he struck out seven and allowed no runs and no walks through seven innings pitched. Additionally, the Nats – who were out-hit nine to six by the Braves – did enough with relatively little, going 3-for-8 with RISP and stranding just six base runners all night.

Thanks to their collective efforts, the Nats will have cause to celebrate if they can secure a win against Atlanta Tuesday night.

THE BAD: Rafael Soriano nearly undid eight solid innings of work for the Nationals’ pitching staff. In just 0.2 innings pitched, he allowed two runs on two hits and a walk.

THE UGLY: Stephen Strasburg’s pickoff attempt in the fifth inning was a far cry from pretty. Fortunately, Strasburg was in the zone through his entire outing, and pitched out of the jam without allowing a run to score.

THE STATS: 4 R, 1 HR, 6 H, 4 BB, 9 K, 3-for-8 RISP, 6 LOB

Washington Nationals vs Atlanta Braves Series Preview

After taking 3-of-4 from the New York Mets, the Washington Nationals now head south to Atlanta for their final series of the season with the Atlanta Braves.

Teams

Washington Nationals (85-63, 1st in NL East) vs Atlanta Braves (75-74, 2nd in NL East) [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 144 Review: Nats Lose As Braves Strike Late

NATS CAN’T OVERCOME ATLANTA’S LATE SURGE AGAINST BULLPEN

Looking for a sweep, the Washington Nationals fell to the Atlanta Braves in a Wednesday afternoon contest at Nationals Park, 6-2.

In the first two games of the Nats three-game series with the Braves, Washington used some early offense to boost them to victory. On Wednesday afternoon, Braves’ starter Aaron Harang kept Washington’s offense in check while Atlanta slowly built a lead in the latter innings of the contest. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 143 Review: Nationals Strike Early, Hold Off Braves Late

NATIONALS CUT MAGIC NUMBER TO 11 WITH WIN OVER BRAVES

After a dramatic win for the home team on Monday night, the Washington Nationals defeated Atlanta Braves 6-4 on Tuesday night in Game 2 of their three-game series at Nationals Park.

Much like they did on Monday night in Game 1 of the series, the Washington Nationals got off to a hot start, lighting up the scoreboard early and giving their starter, Jordan Zimmermann, an early lead. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 142 Review: Nationals Out-Duel Braves in Victory

DOUG FISTER PITCHES SEVEN STRONG AS NATS TOP BRAVES

In front of 25,000-plus fans filled with “Natitude,” the Washington Nationals defeated the Atlanta Braves 2-1 to reduce their magic number to 12.

The Nationals gave Doug Fister an early run, and in return he gave them a seven-inning gem that earned him his 13th win of the year. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 142 Review: Fister Dominates as Nats Top Braves

WASHINGTON LOWERS MAGIC NUMBER TO 12 GAMES

Starter Doug Fister held the Atlanta Braves to just two hits and three walks over seven innings pitched as the Washington Nationals celebrated a 2-1 win Monday night and an eight game lead over the rest of the NL East.

Relying heavily on his fast ball, Fister (W, 13-6) shut down a sleepy Atlanta offense.

The Nats, on the other hand, posted a run early when, with two outs and two on in the bottom of the first, Ian Desmond hit the third single of the inning to plate Anthony Rendon.

It was the only run Washington managed to tally until the seventh inning, but in that time, the Braves hardly threatened.  Fister tossed three 1-2-3 innings, and his only two hits allowed – both singles – came in the first and second innings, respectively.

In the meantime, the Nats could have tacked on additional runs off Mike Minor (L, 6-10) in the third inning had it not been for Atlanta catcher Gerald Laird.

After Rendon drew a one-out walk, Laird fired to second baseman Tommy La Stella to nab him in his attempt to steal second. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals vs Atlanta Braves Series Preview

After avoiding a sweep at the hands of the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday afternoon, the Washington Nationals now welcome the Atlanta Braves to town for a three-game series with serious postseason implications.

Teams

Washington Nationals (80-61, 1st in NL East) vs Atlanta Braves (74-69, 2nd in NL East) [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 116 Review: Gio shaky, offense absent in Sunday night loss to Braves

After the marathon game Saturday night, including a nearly four-hour rain delay then extra innings, the Washington Nationals could have used a crisp, clean outing from starter Gio Gonzalez.

They didn’t get it.

Gonzalez was shaky and the offense was almost non-existant, as the Nats fell to the Atlanta Braves 3-1 at Turner Field. The loss drops the Nats lead over the Braves to 3 1/2 games in the N.L. East.

Gonzalez allowed just two runs, but gave up six hits and four walk in just 4 2/3 innings. He needed 111 pitches to record the 14 outs, though eight of those came via strikeout.

The Nats got on the board first, as Ian Desmond socked his 18th homer of the season to right center field. But that’s all they got.

Atlanta drew even in the bottom of the inning. Justin Upton clubbed a 3-2 changeup to straight-away left field for his 21st homer of the year. It also marked Upton’s 1000th hit and 500th RBI of his career.

Gonzalez (L, 6-9, 4.00) then proceeded to allow two home base runners in the inning, but escaped unscathed — except for his elevated pitch count.

That high pitch count finally got to him in the fifth.

Emilio Bonifacio lead off with a bunt single and Gonzalez walked Tommy LaStella, though the rookie second baseman tried to sacrifice. Freddie Freeman grounded into a 4-6-3 double play and it looked like Gonzalez might escape danger again.

But he issued another walk, this time to Upton. Jason Heyward then hit a grounder to Danny Espinosa, playing in short right field on an extreme shift, but Adam LaRoche also tried for the grounder and Gonzalez failed to cover first base. Heyward was safe and Bonifacio scored on the play without a throw.

Braves starter Alex Wood cruised. Over 7 1/3 innings, he gave up just the Desmond homer, four other hits, and three walks, striking out 12 along the way.

Atlanta picked up another run in the eighth off Jerry Blevins in his second inning of work. He sandwiched a walk to Chris Johnson between strikeouts of Heyward and Gerald Laird. But consecutive hits by Ramiro Pena and pinch-hitter Evan Gattis — both right-handed hitters – pushed the Braves’ third run across.

Blevins is allowing a .321/.400/.449 slash line to right-handed hitters this season.

The Nationals have a much-needed day off Monday before starting a three-game series with the New York Mets on Tuesday at Citifield. Doug Fister (11-3, 2.49) pitches for the Nats. The Mets have not announced their starter.

NATS NOTES: The Nats recalled OF Michael Taylor from AAA-Syracuse and placed OF Steven Souza on the 15-day D.L. with a “left shoulder contusion” sustained when he slammed into the right field wall chasing a home run in Friday night’s game.

  • Denard Span went 2-for-4, extending his hitting streak to 14 games and on-base streak to 36 games.
  • LaRoche had a rough night, striking out all four times at bat, stranding five runners.
  • Jayson Werth, nursing a litany of injuries, went 0-for-1 but walked three times.

Washington Nationals Game 115 Review: Nats top Braves in 11 after nearly 4 hour rain delay

It took a while to get this one started — and finished — but for the Washington Nationals, it was well worth the wait.

A steady rain delayed the start back to after many folks’ bedtimes on the east coast, then extra innings delayed the outcome that much further. But a three-run outburst in the 11th inning lifted the Nats to a 4-1 win over the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.

The Nats extend their division lead back to 4 1/2 games.

Anthony Rendon led off the 11th with a single off Braves reliever David Carpenter and went to second on Adam LaRoche’s ground ball single to right. Carpenter got Ian Desmond to line out to left, though Justin Upton took a bad route and had to make a circus catch on the hard liner.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez lifted Carpenter in favor of James Russell, but Russell walked Bryce Harper on five pitches. Gonzalez went back to his pen, this time for Anthony Varvaro, who gave up a pair of runs in Friday night’s game.

Wilson Ramos greeted Varvaro with a soft liner to center for an RBI single. Kevin Frandsen followed with a double to the right field corner that scored LaRoche and Harper. The Braves muffed the relay to the infield, and Ramos tried to score. He was originally called safe as Even Gattis made a very high tag on the slide, but after review Ramos was ruled out.

Regardless, the Nats had their three-run lead.

All that was left was for Rafael Soriano to pitch the bottom of the inning, and he did so uneventfully for his 26th save of the season.

Previously to the 11th inning, all the scoring in this one came back in the sixth. LaRoche hit a solo homer off Braves starter Aaron Harang, his 16th of the season, then in the bottom the Braves evened it up as they loaded the bases with no outs against Nats starter Tanner Roark, then a sacrifice fly by Jason Heyward tied the game.

Roark wiggled out of the inning allowing just the one run as he struck out Gattis and got a comebacker from Chris Johnson to end the frame.

Roark had another terrific outing, allowing just the one run on six hits and three walks over seven innings, striking out six.

NATS NOTES: CSNWashington’s Mark Zuckerman reported before the game the Nats plan to recall OF Michael Taylor from AAA Syracuse before Sunday’s game. Taylor has had a breakout season in the minors. No corresponding move was announced, though Jayson Werth and Steven Souza Jr. both played Saturday in the late innings.

  • Denard Span continued his hot hitting, going 2-for-5. His average is up to .305 for the year.
  • Harper went 2-for-4 with a run scored.
  • The Nats were 2-for-7 with RISP and left seven on base.
  • Desmond went 0-for-5, but did steal a base.
  • LaRoche went 3-for-5 with a homer, two runs and an RBI.
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