Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nats have a chance to win the series this afternoon at Turner Field.
That's still no small task. Atlanta sends All-Star right-hander Jair Jurrjens (the league leader in wins and ERA) to the mound against a Nats lineup that has admittedly had trouble sustaining hot stretches this season. Laynce Nix is back in left field today, though he's been dropped to the No. 6 spot behind Jayson Werth. Jesus Flores also starts behind the plate, giving Wilson Ramos the day off.
Tom Gorzelanny gets the start for the Nationals. He hasn't won since May 7 (though some of that has been a product of poor run support) but he does get a favorable matchup against a Braves lineup that has hit only .210 (with a .619 OPS) against left-handers this season.
Updates to come. Oh, and for those curious, The B-52s did NOT close with "Love Shack" last night, opting instead for "Rock Lobster." Upset of the year...
NATIONALS at BRAVES
Where: Turner Field
Gametime: 1:35 p.m.
TV: MASN, Ch. 50
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 184
Weather: Partly cloudy, 83 degrees, Wind 11 mph RF to LF
STARTING LINEUPS12:47 p.m. -- Pretty slow-news morning. Only one real item of note: Jerry Hairston has completed his rehab at Class AA Harrisburg and is on his way to Houston to meet the Nats in time for tomorrow's series opener. The club will need to make a corresponding roster move, which could be announced after today's game.
CF Roger Bernadina
2B Danny Espinosa
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Michael Morse
RF Jayson Werth
LF Laynce Nix
C Jesus Flores
SS Ian Desmond
P Tom Gorzelanny
CF Jordan Schafer
3B Martin Prado
C Brian McCann
1B Freddie Freeman
2B Dan Uggla
SS Alex Gonzalez
LF Nate McLouth
RF Wilkin Ramirez
P Jair Jurrjens
1:38 p.m. -- Jair Jurrjens starts off Roger Bernadina with a fastball for strike one, getting this game underway. It's a very comfortable 83 degrees at first pitch. Have to say, we've been really lucky with the weather here this weekend. Mid-July in Atlanta and the temperature never came close to 90 degrees? I'll take that.
1:47 p.m. -- Man on second, nobody out in the top of the first ... something good's gotta come out of that, right? Or not. With Bernadina standing on second, Danny Espinosa struck out swinging at a 3-2 pitch. Ryan Zimmerman then rapped a comebacker to Jurrjens, who had Bernadina caught in no-man's land off second base. Ran him back to the bag and recorded the second out of the inning. Michael Morse then crushed a ball to left-center, but that's a tough place to hit one out in this ballpark, especially with the wind blowing in. It died at the warning track. So nothing for the Nationals in the top of the first.
2:07 p.m. -- Yikes, what a nightmare of a first inning for Tom Gorzelanny. He issued three walks, uncorked a wild pitch with the bases loaded, allowed two stolen bases (though Jesus Flores' poor throws didn't help) and was flagged by second base ump Dana DeMuth for putting his hand to his mouth while standing on the mound. That's an automatic ball, and since there were already three balls on Dan Uggla, that's a walk. Gorzelanny was irate at DeMuth, and continued to look totally frazzled out there to the point you wondered if he might not make it through the inning. Somehow he did, but not before the Braves took a 2-0 lead.
2:22 p.m. -- Props to Gorzelanny for bouncing back from that bizarre inning to retire the side in the second. Struck out both Wilkin Ramirez and Jordan Schafer, and got Jurrjens to ground out. So it remains 2-0 after two.
2:41 p.m. -- Well this turned into quite an unusual afternoon for Mr. Gorzelanny, didn't it? Standing on first base in the top of the third, he took off when Bernadina crushed a ball to right-center. Gorzelanny came charging around third, then bowled over Brian McCann to score and knock the ball loose. That allowed Bernadina to come all the way around to score on what was ruled a triple and an error on second baseman Dan Uggla. Gorzelanny, though, immediately came up lame, hobbling off the field. He attempted to warm up in the bottom of the third, but after a couple of tosses, trainer Lee Kuntz and Davey Johnson trotted out there. Gorzelanny has since departed. And since Ross Detwiler threw two innings on Friday night, he's not available today. So Henry Rodriguez is in to pitch the third inning. Oy. Don't these guys know I have a flight to catch tonight? Should I just call Delta right now and rebook? (Oh yeah, the score is now 2-2.)
2:54 p.m. -- This is the problem with having Detwiler as your sixth starter/long reliever. The Nats are determined to keep him on something close to a starter's schedule (ie. pitching only every fifth or sixth day, with perhaps one extra inning in between on what would normally be the day he throws a bullpen session). But you never know when you're going to need a long man. Those spots are usually reserved for veterans with rubber arms. Like Miguel Batista. I recall early last season when Batista was struggling and some people thought he should be released. But a team official shot that theory down, insisting you've got to keep at least one guy in your bullpen who you can "abuse." Basically, someone who can pitch no matter the situation, no matter how often, no matter how many innings you need. If the Nats still believe Detwiler ultimately will be a starter -- and all indications are that they do -- he's totally miscast in his current role. By the way, they just announced Gorzelanny's injury as a "twisted right knee." He's day-to-day.
3:03 p.m. -- And now Desmond ropes a two-run double to right-center to put the Nats up 4-2 in the fourth. That's also an eight-game hitting streak for Desmond (who unfortunately followed it up by trying to swipe third on a potential wild pitch and oversliding the bag). That proved costly when Bernadina proceeded to single to left.
3:07 p.m. -- And now Espinosa crushes a ball off the top of the center-field fence, races into third base but asks the umps to review it in case it was a homer. The umps won't do it, but no worries, because Zimmerman follows with a blast nearly over the center field fence himself. It's now 6-2 Nats in the middle of the fourth.
3:18 p.m. -- Two perfect innings of relief from Henry Rodriguez so far. Nicely done. We'll see if Davey lets him back out for a third inning.
3:40 p.m. -- Some days, you just see these kind of things coming. Davey was pressing his luck with Rodriguez, sending him back out for another inning. And though he pulled the right-hander before imploding completely, he was left bringing in Sean Burnett to face Brian McCann with two on and a chance to tie the game. Burnett went for a spin and landed on the Whammy. Three-run bomb. Game tied 6-6. He then walked Freddie Freeman, gave up a single to Dan Uggla and then got a groundball out of Alex Gonzalez that still brought a run home. The Braves now lead 7-6, we're still only in the bottom of the fifth. As far as Burnett goes: Either he's injured and not letting the Nats know it, or he's somehow regressed from one of the best left-handed relievers in baseball to one of the worst in less than a year.
3:53 p.m. -- Well, this has officially become the strangest game of the year. Sean Burnett was allowed to hit for himself in the top of the sixth. Against a lefty, George Sherrill. And promptly roped a base hit to right. Except then he got hung up on the bases on Bernadina's bloops single to left and was thrown out, possibly turning his ankle as he went into second base. Then Espinosa belts his 17th homer of the season, putting the Nats back on top, 8-7. Except it could have been 9-7 if not for Burnett's baserunning blunder. What a strange ballgame.
3:59 p.m. -- And now Burnett retires the side in the sixth and incredibly is in line for the win. Talk about your classic vulture jobs. Tyler Clippard's got nothing on Sean.
4:10 p.m. -- Speaking of Clippard, he's in for the bottom of the seventh. Which means Davey will be asking for two innings out of him today, hoping the All-Star can protect an 8-7 lead.
4:15 p.m. -- By the way, Danny Espinosa's 17 homers are the most ever by a Washington second baseman. That includes the original Senators (1901-60), the expansion Senators (1961-71) and the Nationals (2005-present).
4:33 p.m. -- And we're tied again. Clippard had faced eight Atlanta batters the last two days and retired them all, but he couldn't get No. 9. Nate McLouth belted a 1-0 fastball into the right-field bleachers, leaving this game knotted 8-8 as we go to the ninth.
4:45 p.m. -- Well, well, well ... top of the ninth, two outs, go-ahead runner on third, Jayson Werth at the plate against Craig Kimbrel. He takes a fastball for strike one, swings through another fastball to fall behind in the count 0-2, fouls one off and then grounds into a 6-4 fielder's choice to end the inning. It remains 8-8 heading to the bottom of the ninth, and it'll be Ryan Mattheus to face Brooks Conrad, Jordan Schafer and Martin Prado with the game hanging in the balance.
4:58 p.m. -- Just when it looked like the Nats might squeeze their way out of a ninth-inning jam -- Desmond made another nice throw to third to nail Conrad -- it all comes crashing down. Mattheus let Prado get a huge jump and steal second without a throw. Then after intentionally walking Brian McCann, Freddie Freeman roped a base hit to right, bringing Prado home with the winning run. Final score: Braves 9, Nats 8. Tough one right there.