November 24, 2014

Washington Nationals Game 121 Review: Upton’s walkoff spoils Nats night; Harper hit twice

There was plenty of drama with the Atlanta Braves continuing to hit Bryce Harper with pitches — and the Washington Nationals having their hands tied by the umpires, not able to handle things on the field. The Nats and Braves had a little drama on the field as well, with a late comeback by the Nats to tie the game ruined by Justin Upton’s walk-off home run in  he bottom of the tenth against Ian Krol, delivering a 3-2 win to the runaway division leaders.

The Nats are 3-11 against the Braves this season.

The Braves scored first in the opening frame against Nats starter Taylor Jordan, making perhaps his final start of the season, as he eclipsed the 140 inning mark. Jayson Heyward led off the game with a single, and was headed to second when Justin Upton drew a walk.

But catcher Wilson Ramos threw down to second as Heyward was running on the play, and Ramos threw the ball into the outfield, allowing the Braves right fielder to walk tot third base. Heyward then scored as Freddie Freeman hit into a double play.

Atlanta took a 2-0 lead in the third, again taking advantage of shoddy Nationals defense. Light-hitting shortstop Paul Janish led off with a single and after pitcher Alex Wood struck out trying to sacrifice, Janish went to second on Heyward’s single up the middle.

Justin Upton then grounded to short and Ian Desmond’s feed to Anthony Rendon nabbed Heyward at second. But Rendon’s relay was bad, earning his 14th error of the season and Janish came around to score.

The Nats got one back in the fourth. Bryce Harper was hit by a pitch — the first time of the night. Jayson Werth followed with a single and Harper moved over to third. Desmond grounded to short for a double play, but Harper was able to score on the play.

It stayed 2-1 until the top of the eighth, as Taylor Jordan and Braves rookie Wood traded zeroes to that point. Jordan, on an innings limit this season in his first full season following Tommy John surgery, went six innings. He did not allow an earned run and gave up seven hits and three walks, striking out three. He benefitted from three double plays behind him, as he generated nine ground ball outs against on fly out.

With two outs in the eighth, Ryan Zimmerman doubled on a line drive to center field. Harper was hit — again — by left-handed reliever Luis Avilan, drawing attention from the Nats bench, with every man rising to the top dugout step.

But cooler heads prevailed, and home plate umpire Marty Foster warned both benches about any further escalation, effectively taking any chance at the Nats taking care of business on the field as another beanball would have drawn ejection.

Regardless, the hit batter allowed the Nats hottest hitter to bat with a  man in scoring position, and Werth delivered with a single to right field to tie the game.

Unfortunately, Upton’s game-winner spoiled what otherwise was a tough, tight ballgame. The result was yet another one-run loss to a Braves team that has simply and unquestionably dominated the Nationals this season.

THE GOOD: Werth continues his torrid pace with two more base hits and the tying RBI. Also, Drew Storen returned to the Nats and pitched a strong ninth inning, striking out two and allowing one hit. His slider appeared to have more bite and he was noticeably quicker to home plate, abandoning his slow, stiff leg drag for a more conventional delivery.

THE BAD: Denard Span. He avoids the “ugly” due to the beanball stuff. But 0-for-5 with three strikeouts and five left on base is lousy.

THE UGLY: Harper has been hit by the Braves now three times in their last three games. In this one, he was hit by a breaking ball and in a 2-1 game in the eighth, putting the tying run at second base, so it’s hard to imagine either were intentional. Regardless, the Braves are due some payback.

THE STATS: 9 hits, 1 BB, 10 Ks. 1-for-10 with RISP, 8 LOB. E: Ramos (6, throw), Rendon (14, throw), LaRoche (8, fielding). 3 DPs.

NEXT GAME: Saturday at 7:10 pm against the Braves. Stephen Strasburg (6-9, 2.83) against LHP Mike Minor (12-5, 2.87).

About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP

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