Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nationals (and The B-52s) play tonight at Turner Field.
They'll try to get back on track tonight, with John Lannan on the mound for the first time since taking a line drive off his face July 8 against the Rockies. What looked at the time like a potentially devastating injury instead turned out to be incredibly mild. The lefty suffered only a nasal contusion, and if you look at him now, you'd never know anything happened.
In talking to Lannan yesterday, he insisted he won't take the mound tonight worried about the same thing happening again. He does, however, plan to make a slight mechanical tweak, reverting to a form he used to use. On his follow-through, Lannan wants to tuck his head down and to the right a little more. He said he'd fallen into a bad habit of leaving his head up, which may have left him more susceptible to comebackers like the one last week.
Meanwhile, the Braves have painted a giant "10,000" into their outfield, in commemoration of the franchise's 10,000 all-time win last night. It sounds impressive, but they've also lost 9,992 games in their history. In fact, of the 16 original MLB franchise, the Braves' .5002 winning percentage ranks 12th (behind, among others, the Indians, Pirates and Cubs).
And finally, you'll notice in the above photo a big stage taking over the infield. The B-52s will be performing after tonight's game. So I'll be writing my game story with "Love Shack" blaring in the background. Can't wait...
NATIONALS at BRAVES
Where: Turner Field
Gametime: 7:10 p.m.
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 184
Weather: Partly cloudy, 77 degrees, Wind 11 mph RF to LF
STARTING LINEUPS6:00 p.m. -- Couple of injury updates for you: Chien-Ming Wang will make his next rehab start for Class AAA Syracuse on Tuesday. Looking ahead, figure he makes one more start for the Chiefs on either July 24 or 25 at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. His 30-day rehab stint must end on July 27, so it would stand to reason he's in line to make his Nationals debut sometime during the weekend of July 29-31 against the Mets. ... Ivan Rodriguez hit in the batting cage earlier today and continues to heal quickly from his strained oblique muscle. He's eligible to come off the DL July 22, and it's possible he could do that without going on a rehab assignment, according to manager Davey Johnson. ... Laynce Nix is not in the lineup tonight even though the Braves are starting a right-hander. Johnson is being especially careful with Nix, who has been dealing with a strained Achilles' tendon all season. It should be noted that Nix hasn't been producing at the plate lately like he was earlier in the season: He's batting just .224 with a .270 OBP over his last 19 games. ... Some of you were curious about Ross Detwiler, who limped off the mound during last night's game. Detwiler twisted his right ankle a couple of times landing on the mound hole created by Tim Hudson, but it's nothing serious and the lefty was walking around fine after the game and again today.
LF Roger Bernadina
2B Danny Espinosa
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Michael Morse
RF Jayson Werth
CF Rick Ankiel
C Wilson Ramos
SS Ian Desmond
P John Lannan
CF Jordan Schafer
3B Martin Prado
C Brian McCann
1B Freddie Freeman
2B Dan Uggla
RF Jason Heyward
SS Alex Gonzalez
LF Wilkin Ramirez
P Tommy Hanson
7:11 p.m. -- And we're underway with a strike from Tommy Hanson to Roger Bernadina. There was a brief, 60-second cloudburst about 10 minutes ago as the Braves were holding their 10,000th franchise win ceremony. A real pity. I'm sorry, but they've just gone overboard with this whole thing. Not that it's not impressive to win 10,000 games in your history. But they're acting here like this makes them the most successful franchise in baseball history. Really, all it means is they've existed for a very long time, longer than all but one other MLB franchise.
7:26 p.m. -- 1-2-3, nothing across for both teams in the first inning. John Lannan was particularly sharp in striking out Jordan Schafer and then getting a popup and a flyout to end the inning on 13 pitches.
7:41 p.m. -- Wow, where to begin? Let's start with both Michael Morse and Wilson Ramos roping doubles in the top of the second. Let's add Hanson walking both Rick Ankiel (who, amazingly, is now hitting .385 with a .467 OBP since coming off the DL) and Ian Desmond. The highlight, of course, was John Lannan stepping to the plate with the bases loaded, having gone hitless in 32 at-bats this season. And delivering a two-run single up the middle. Yes, that's right. If you're keeping track of such things, Lannan now has as many RBI this season (2) as Matt Stairs, despite having half as many plate appearances. The Nats take a 3-0 lead.
7:52 p.m. -- And Lannan immediately gives two runs back in the bottom of the second. After issuing a one-out walk to Dan Uggla (owner of a .256 OBP), he served up a 2-run homer to Alex Gonzalez. It's 3-2 Nats after two.
8:13 p.m. -- The ball sure seemed to find Desmond there in the bottom of the third, didn't it? First, Schafer lofted a blooper into no-man's land in shallow left-center, with Desmond, Bernadina and Ankiel all missing it. No worries, because Desmond more than made up for that one with a pair of nifty plays. He made an astute move to throw Schafer out at third on a subsequent bouncer to short. Then he went up the middle to snag Freddie Freeman's grounder, flipped the ball out of his glove and into his right hand and then made a solid throw to first to end the inning. Nats still lead 3-2 after three.
8:40 p.m. -- The Nats caught a huge break in the top of the fifth when Danny Espinosa slid hard into second base trying to break up a double play and umpire Doug Eddings ruled Alex Gonzalez's foot came off the bag before he received a high throw from Dan Uggla. Everybody was safe, though replays showed Gonzalez's foot clearly on the base with the ball in hand. Terrible call by Eddings. Not that the Nats took advantage of the gift. Morse popped out to second, and Werth crushed a ball to the warning track in right field, only to watch as Jason Heyward caught it. It hasn't resulted in much positive, but for what it's worth, Werth has hit several balls hard the last two nights. Perhaps a small sign of a breakout forthcoming. Still 3-2 Nats.
8:56 p.m. -- Speaking of hitting the ball hard ... Wilson Ramos is just crushing it tonight. Had the ground-rule double to right-center earlier, and now he belts a two-run homer to left-center to put the Nationals ahead 5-2 in the sixth. Ramos' ninth home run of the season, and he's now got 33 RBI. ... And now Lannan delivers his second base hit of the night up the middle, knocking Hanson out of the game. How about that?
9:15 p.m. -- The Braves started getting to Lannan in the sixth, with a pair of singles and then a line drive shot by Heyward that fortunately was hit right at Werth. Not wanting to take any chances, Davey Johnson decided to pull his starter after 5 2/3 innings. So in came Ryan Mattheus in perhaps the biggest spot of his young career: two on, two out, Alex Gonzalez at the plate representing the tying run. Gonzalez came within about a foot from a two-run double down the left-field line, but Mattheus fired right back and induced a groundball to end the sixth with the Nats still leading 5-2. Nicely done.
9:33 p.m. -- Another clean inning from Mattheus, who retired the side in the seventh. You know who the unsung heroes of the Nats' bullpen have been? How about Mattheus and Todd Coffey. Combined, they've allowed only 7 of 38 inherited runners to score this season. That's getting the job done.
9:51 p.m. -- Wow, a large man wearing a wedding dress just jumped out of the center field bleachers and onto the field here. A cop then tackled him Ray Lewis-style, drawing a roar from the crowd.
9:53 p.m. -- Meanwhile, All-Star Tyler Clippard picks up right where he left off. Retires the side in the eighth. We go to the ninth, the Nats still holding a 5-2 lead.
10:12 p.m. -- That's your ballgame. The Nats win 5-2 and hand the Braves the 9,993rd loss in their storied franchise history. Lannan (6-6) gets the win, not to mention two RBI. Storen gets his 24th save.