August 21, 2014

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.

Washington Nationals Game 114 Review: Strasburg rocked; Nats comeback falls short against Braves

Stephen Strasburg has had better nights — but not any worse.

For the first time in his career, the Washington Nationals starter gave up four home runs in one start and dug the Nats a deep hole. Despite clawing back to within one run before the seventh inning stretch, the Nats never did tie and lost to the Atlanta Braves, 7-6, at Turner Field.

The Braves snapped an eight-game losing streak in the process and cut the Nats lead in the division to 3 1/2 games.

In 15 starts against the Braves, Strasburg is 3-6 with a 4.62 ERA.

Strasburg (L, 8-10, 3.68) surrendered homers to Justin Upton (20) in the first inning, his brother B.J. (8) and Freddie Freeman (16) in the second, and Tommy LaStella in the fifth inning. LaStella’s homer in the fifth — the first of his career – ended up being the difference in the game.

B.J. Upton had not homered in over 130 at bats.

Strasburg’s final line was ugly. He gave up seven runs on seven hits and two walks, though he did strike out nine in five innings. But the home runs were the killer.

The Nats trailed 7-0 entering the middle innings but made a game of it. The rally started in the sixth. Scott Hairston pinch-hit for Strasburg and was hit by Braves starter Ervin Santana. Denard Span ( 3-for-4, .304) singled to put runners at the corners. Asdrubal Cabrera followed with a  single to center that plated Hariston, then Anthony Rendon connected for his 15th home run of the season to cut the deficit to 7-4.

Washington pulled within two in the seventh. Wilson Ramos led off the inning with a no-doubt-about-it shot for his fifth homer of the season. Later, Kevin Frandsen reached on an error, went to third on Span’s single and scored on Cabrera’s sacrifice fly to left.

But the comeback stalled in the late innings, as Jordan Walden and Craig Kimbrel pitched clean slates in the eighth and ninth innings.

The second of the three-game series is Saturday at 7:10 pm ET. Tanner Roark (11-7, 2.94) faces Aaron Harang (9-6, 3.41).

NATS NOTES: Steven Souza Jr. made his first start since his recall in right field for Jayson Werth, but he didn’t last long. Chasing Freeman’s homer to right, he crashed full-speed into the outfield fence. He stayed in the game for another at bat, but after watching the video, it’s hard to imagine how. The Nats said he was day-to-day after the game, but then again, aren’t we all.

Washington Nationals vs Atlanta Braves Series Preview

After taking two-of-three from the New York Mets and moving 4.5 games ahead of the Atlanta Braves, the Washington Nationals now head south to Atlanta for a three-game series with their division rivals. [Read more...]

Nats Nightly: Nationals 4-1 over Braves to earn split of four-game set

Dave Nichols of District Sports Page and Patrick Reddington and “Doghouse” of Federal Baseball discuss the Washington Nationals 4-1 win over the Atlanta Braves for a split of the 4-game series.

Check Out Baseball Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with District Sports Page Nats Nightly on BlogTalkRadio

Washington Nationals Game 74 Review: Nats’ Pitching Staff Silences Braves in 4-1 Win

On a beautiful Sunday afternoon for baseball at Nationals Park, the Nationals’ pitching staff shutdown the Atlanta Braves to lead Washington to a 2-2 split of the series with a 4-1 win. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 73 Review: Fister Pitches Gem in Nats’ 3-0 Win Over Braves

In front of a sellout crowd at Nationals Park on Saturday night, Washington Nationals pitcher Doug Fister tossed his best game of the season to help his team reclaim the NL East lead by beating the Atlanta Braves, 3-0. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 72 Review: Nats’ Comeback Bid Falls Short in 6-4 Loss to Braves

On a beautiful night for baseball at Nationals Park, the Washington Nationals’ dropped a heartbreaking game to the Atlanta Braves in extra innings, 6-4. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals Game 71 Review: Floyd And Co. Shut Down Nats in Braves’ 3-0 win

In front of 32,193 at Nationals Park on Thursday evening, the Atlanta Braves shutdown the Washington Nationals en route to winning Game 1 of the series, 3-0. [Read more...]

Washington Nationals vs Atlanta Braves Series Preview

After completing a two-games sweep of the Houston Astros, the Washington Nationals now welcome in the Atlanta Braves for a four-game showdown between the top two teams in the NL East.

Teams

Washington Nationals (37-33, 1st in NL East) vs Atlanta Braves (36-35, 2nd in NL East)

Schedule

Game 1: Thursday, June 19 @ 7:05 PM EST on MLB Network

Game 2: Friday, June 20 @ 7:05 PM EST

Game 3: Saturday, June 21 @ 7:15 PM EST on FOX

Game 4: Sunday, June 22 @ 1:35 PM EST

Probable Pitchers (Season Stats; Career vs Opponent)

Game 1: Jordan Zimmermann (5-3, 2.98; 3-1, 2.98) vs Gavin Floyd (1-2, 2.98; 1-2, 4.45)

Game 2: Stephen Strasburg (6-5, 3.06; 3-5, 3.86) vs Mike Minor (2-4, 4.42; 3-2, 4.96)

Game 3: Doug Fister (5-2, 3.08; 1-0, 3.86) vs Julio Teheran (6-4, 2.31; 3-1, 2.93)

Game 4: Tanner Roark (6-4, 2.85; 1-0, 2.55) vs Ervin Santana (5-4, 4.12; 0-0, 3.67)

Players to Watch

Washington:

  • Adam LaRoche (1B): .302 BA, .416 OBP, 8 HR, 35 RBI
  • Ian Desmond (SS): 13 HR, 44 RBI, .238 BA
  • Jayson Werth (RF): 74 H, 6 HR, 33 RBI, .280 BA
  • Aaron Barrett (RHP): 24.1 IP, 1.85 ERA, 29 K

Atlanta:

  • Justin Upton (LF): .278 BA, 14 HR, 37 RBI, .510 SLG
  • Evan Gattis (C): .294 BA, 16 HR, 38 RBI, .934 OPS
  • Freddie Freeman (1B): .276 BA, 11 HR, 36 RBI, 20 doubles
  • Craig Kimbrel (Closer): 27.1 IP, 1.98 ERA, 50 K, 20 SV

Notables on the Injury Report

Washington:

For the Nationals, Wilson Ramos and Bryce Harper are the two most notable players on this series’ injury report. Don’t expect either of them to return for this series, which isn’t always bad considering drama always finds Harper when these two teams square off.

Atlanta: 

The Braves will be down a reliever for this series as David Carpenter is on the 15-day DL with a biceps injury. Should Atlanta need their bullpen early in a game, that’s one thing to keep an eye on. More importantly, Justin Upton left Tuesday’s game early and missed Wednesday’s game due to an illness. Following Wednesday’s game, he told the media that he still felt dizzy.

Series Notes

Just three times since coming to D.C. in 2005 has Washington taken the season series from Atlanta, the last time being 2012. In their past 25 games going back to last year, the Nationals are 7-18 against Atlanta, including 1-5 this year. In that same span, Washington is 3-9 at home.

Currently up 1.5 games on the Braves, Washington could extend their lead to 5.5 games with a sweep. With Bryce Harper’s and Wilson Ramos’ returns just around the corner, along with the All-Star break, that would be quite the boost as the playoff picture begins to shape up.

A Chesapeake, Virginia native, Justin Upton sure doesn’t mind playing the Nationals. In 196 at bats, he’s hitting .296 with a .391 OBP, nine home runs and 27 RBI. He’s done quite a bit of damage at Nats Park, hitting .299 with five home runs and 12 RBI. Should he play, he could be quite the difference maker.

—————–

Brian Skinnell is a sports writer born and raised in the Washington, D.C.-metro area. He’s had work published on Yahoo Sports and Rant Sports, and has made several radio show appearances across the country to discuss his works. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+!

%d bloggers like this: