November 25, 2020

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.

Thanks to RBI singles from Adam LaRoche (2-for-3, 2 RBI, BB), Ian Desmond (1-for-3, RBI), Wilson Ramos (2-for-4, RBI) and an RBI sacrifice fly from Asdrubal Cabrera (0-for-3, RBI), the Nationals exited the first inning with the game well in control, leading 4-0. Denard Span (1-for-5) got the inning started with a lead-off double.

Zimmermann then settled in for the long haul. Over the first three innings, he allowed two hits while striking out four. With the exception of a Jason Heyward ground-rule-double in the second, Atlanta wasn’t able to muster up anything offensively.

That is to say, until the fourth inning when the Braves tallied two runs. After back-to-back hits to lead-off the inning by Phil Gosselin and Freddie Freeman, Heyward scored Gosselin on a fielders choice. On the play, LaRoche threw the ball to Desmond at second to get the force out, but Desmond’s return throw missed his first basemen and Heyward advanced to second on the error.

The following batter, Chris Johnson, then singled to score Heyward and the cut the Nationals lead to 6-2.

Washington then answered in the bottom of the frame in the form of a Jayson Werth RBI double. After Anthony Rendon battled back from an 0-2 count to draw a full-count walk, Werth doubled to deep left to get back one of the runs the Nationals had given up.

Back on the mound, Zimmermann recovered from 2-run fourth inning to pitch a 1-2-3 fifth. He needed just 13 pitches struck out Ervin Santana and Emilio Bonifacio.

An inning later, however, the Braves struck again, this time in the form of the game’s only long ball. After Gosselin reached first on a throwing error by short stop Danny Espinosa (1-for-1), Justin Upton ripped a 1-2 pitch to deep center to chip into the Nationals lead again, this time cutting it down to 6-4.

Following the sixth inning, Matt Williams handed the game over to his bullpen. Zimmermann’s night came to an end after pitching six full innings, giving up six hits, four runs (two earned) and struck out seven.

Aaron Barrett pitched 1.1 innings, giving up a double in the eighth after pitching a 1-2-3 seventh. Ross Detwiler entered with one out in the eighth inning and Emilio Bonifacio standing on second. He faced one batter, Freeman, and struck him out four pitches. Williams went back to the bullpen for Craig Stammen to face Upton. Stammen preceded to strikeout Upton swinging on six-pitch battle.

Drew Storen then came on for his third save attempt in as many days. Needing just seven pitches, Storen earned his fourth save of the season, recording a strikeout of Johnson in the process.

Despite a late charge from the Braves, the Nationals held on to win, 6-4.

The Nationals and Braves will return to Nationals Park Wednesday afternoon for Game 3 of the series. Washington will send Stephen Strasburg to the mound to pitch opposite of the Braves’ Aaron Harang. First pitch is set for 4:05 PM EST.

Game Notes

There’s quite a battle brewing for the team-lead in RBI between Ian Desmond and Adam LaRoche. LaRoche has caught fire in recent weeks and trails Desmond by just one – 82 vs 83 – after picking up an RBI on Tuesday night. Likewise, Desmond protected his lead with a 2-RBI night.

Wilson Ramos caught his 17th base runner stealing in the first inning when Freddie Freeman took off from first. Ramos fired an absolute strike to second base to record the final out of the inning. Defensively, people don’t give The Buffalo enough credit.

Jayson Werth should certainly be commended for his base running throughout the game. His heads up running generated two of the Nationals runs. On two occasions did he advance two bags and put himself in scoring position. On Desmond’s first-inning single, he took off in a full sprint and went from second to home. In the bottom of the second, he went from first-to-third on a throwing error by Braves’ catcher Christian Bethancourt.

For reasons unknown at the time of this report, Ian Desmond was pulled from the game in the sixth inning for Danny Espinosa, who later recorded an error. Perhaps Matt Williams saw the 6-2 lead as an opportunity to give Espinosa time on the field and in the batters box.

For the second straight game, Craig Stammen and Justin Upton met in a clutch situation late in the game. With a man in scoring position both nights, Stammen forced up to pop out on Monday and strike out on Tuesday hold the Braves offense at bay.

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Brian Skinnell is a sports writer born and raised in the Washington, D.C.-metro area and covers the Washington Nationals, Wizards and MiLB for District Sports Page. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+!

About Brian Skinnell

Brian Skinnell is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Redskins, Nationals and college football. He is a born-and-raised follower of Washington, D.C. sports, “The” Ohio State Buckeyes and auto racing. A graduate of Shepherd University in December of 2014, he has a degree in Recreation and Leisure Studies with a Concentration in Sports Communications. Prior to joining District Sports Page (for his second stint), he spent time with Rant Sports, Yahoo Sports and the Washington Redskins. For his day job, he is an Editor for Team Velocity Marketing. Follow him on Twitter @Brian_Skinnell.

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