August 30, 2014

Washington Nationals Game 52 Review: Gio wilts in middle innings; Braves beat Nats 3-2

After two batters today for the Washington Nationals, it looked like it would be clear sailing. Unfortunately, the waters muddied after that and the Atlanta Braves departed D.C. with an abbreviated series split, winning 3-2 on a spectacularly beautiful Sunday afternoon before over 38,000 at Nationals Park.

Steve Lombardozzi and Bryce Harper became the first rookie teammates in MLB history to lead off a game hitting back-to-back home runs, with Harper’s shot being particularly impressive, coming to rest halfway up the second deck above the Nationals bullpen, a territory once reserved for the likes of Adam Dunn.

But that’s all the offense the Nats generated for the day against Tommy Hanson (W, 6-4) and two Braves relievers.

For a while, it looked like that might be all Gio Gonzalez needed. The lefty, named NL Pitcher of the Month for May just before the game, appeared to be in his usual stingy groove. But int he third, the Braves halved the lead on a Dan Uggla RBI double. Then in the fifth, the Braves added two more.

Michael Bourn beat out a ground ball to first base to start the inning, taking advantage of his speed and Gonzalez’ lack thereof covering first base. Gio recovered, forcing Martin Prado to pop up to catcher Jesus Flores and getting Freddie Freeman to look at strike three. But a wild pitch moved Bourn up to second, and with an open base the Nats decided to walk Uggla intentionally.

Gonzalez unraveled. He uncorked another wild pitch, moving the runners up, and walked Matt Diaz to load the bases. Jason Heyward then delivered the fatal blow, singling to left, driving in two runs. It was the last batter Gonzalez (L, 7-2) faced on the day. His line for the day was not pretty: 4.2 IP, 3 ER, 7 H, 3 BB, Ks

The Nats had a good chance in the eighth, as reliever Eric O’Flaherty walked Lombardozzi and Harper to lead off the inning. But Ryan Zimmerman (4-for-25 this past week) hit the 2-2 pitch on the ground to second for a tailor-made double play and Adam LaRoche flied out to the track to end the threat.

THE GOOD: Harper. He went 2-for-3 with a walk and the monster home run.

THE BAD: The Nos. 3-5 hitters went 0-for-12.

THE UGLY: Zimmerman. He’s really struggling, and after the game manager Davey Johnson kinda skated around the question if Zimmerman’s shoulder, which caused a stint on the D.L. last month, was still bothering him.

THE STATS: 6 hits, 2 BBs, 9 Ks. 0-for-5 with RISP, 5 LOB, 1 GIDP. No errors, 1 DP.

NEXT GAME: Tuesday, June 5 against the New York Mets. Jordan Zimmermann (3-5, 2.80) is scheduled to face Chris Young, making his 2012 season debut after off-season shoulder surgery.

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