Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Livan Hernandez faces Jair Jurrjens tonight at Nationals Park.
The Nats played the wild-card leading Braves tough in that series at Turner Field and should have taken two of three if not for an unsightly collapse in the Sunday finale. Atlanta, though, has a new reinforcement atop its lineup: Center fielder Michael Bourn, who was acquired yesterday from Houston.
Livan Hernandez gets the ball for the Nationals, facing 12-game winner Jair Jurrjens. It's another ridiculously hot afternoon in the District, though there is a chance of a storm sweeping through town right around gametime. Check back here for updates...
BRAVES at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 184
Weather: Chance of storms, 95 degrees, Wind 10 mph LF to RF
STARTING LINEUPS6:10 p.m. -- Lineups are finally posted. You'll notice Jair Jurrjens is batting eighth for the Braves, with George Costanza ... oh wait, make that Jose Constanza batting ninth. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it's the first time a Braves pitcher has hit eighth since Lew Burdette in 1959. The team played in Milwaukee back then.
CF Rick Ankiel
2B Danny Espinosa
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Michael Morse
RF Jayson Werth
LF Laynce Nix
SS Ian Desmond
C Wilson Ramos
P Livan Hernandez
CF Michael Bourn
3B Martin Prado
1B Freddie Freeman
2B Dan Uggla
RF Jason Heyward
C David Ross
SS Alex Gonzalez
P Jair Jurrjens
LF Jose Constanza
6:13 p.m. -- Also, if you haven't seen the latest Stephen Strasburg update: He's likely to begin his rehab assignment with one of the Nats' affiliates early next week. Full story here.
7:07 p.m. -- And we're underway with a strike from Livan Hernandez to Michael Bourn. Though the sky has turned gray, the storms have held off so far, and it appears like they won't be an issue tonight.
7:13 p.m. -- And Livo faces the minimum in the top of the first. Not exactly in a conventional manner, though. Bourn lined an 0-1 pitch to left for his first hit as a Brave. Martin Prado then just missed a two-run homer down the left-field line, then smoked a ball down the third-base line that had two bases written all over it. Except Ryan Zimmerman made a lunging, backhanded catch of the line drive, then threw to first to double up Bourn. Freddie Freeman struck out to end the inning.
7:19 p.m. -- What has gotten into Rick Ankiel, and why couldn't he have done this earlier this year? The non-traditional leadoff man clubbed a solo homer to deep center to begin the bottom of the first. In 26 games since coming off the DL, he's now batting .339 with three homers, nine RBI and a .397 on-base percentage. Nats lead 1-0 after one.
7:28 p.m. -- Speaking of hot hitters, Dan Uggla is on fire. Connected for a solo homer off Livo in the top of the second, extending his hitting streak to 23 games and tying this game 1-1. The Braves are hitting Hernandez pretty hard so far; he's been lucky to get through this only allowing the one run.
7:42 p.m. -- I know "The Book" says you always intentionally walk the No. 8 hitter to get to the pitcher, but as the Braves were issuing a free pass to Wilson Ramos with two outs in the second, I turned to some others in the press box and suggested this was a questionable move. For one thing, Ramos has been in a slump. For another, Livan Hernandez is a good-hitting pitcher who has homered off Jair Jurrjens before. Sure enough, Livo roped an RBI single to right, putting the Nats up 2-1. He's now had three at-bats in his career against Jurrjens. His stats: 3-for-3, with a double, a homer and three RBI!
7:59 p.m. -- Still 2-1 Nats after three, as Jayson Werth strikes out looking at a borderline 2-2 sinker from Jurrjens. With a double earlier, though, Werth's batting average skyrocketed to .225. I know, I know. But from where it was a couple weeks ago, that's a pretty significant bump.
8:09 p.m. -- Big 6-4-3 double play to end the top of the fourth. The Braves had loaded the bases on two singles and a hit batter. But Hernandez got David Ross to ground to short, and Danny Espinosa had another nice turn to complete the twin-killing. Livo has allowed five hits in four innings, but the Nats still lead 2-1.
8:25 p.m. -- Stop the presses! Jair Jurrjens has finally retired Livan Hernandez! Weak grounder to short to start the bottom of the fifth. And stop the presses again, because Rick Ankiel just homered again! What's gotten into this guy? Nats take a 3-1 lead.
8:46 p.m. -- Jurrjens may be among the NL ERA leaders this season, but not because he's dominated the Nats. On the contrary, they've beaten him around pretty good. Five runs in five-plus innings tonight, combined with six runs over five innings on July 17. That's 11 runs off Jurrjens in 10 innings. Not bad. Nats lead 5-1, and curiously, Davey Johnson pinch-hits for Livan Hernandez. Livo's done after only six innings and 81 pitches. Yes, the Braves were hitting him pretty hard, but he's got a four-run cushion now. And Davey has been talking a lot about how he's had to use his bullpen too much. Why not give Livo one more inning?
9:03 p.m. -- And Todd Coffey serves up a two-out, solo homer to David Ross in the top of the seventh. It's now 5-2.
9:12 p.m. -- Hmm, this is interesting ... Ryan Mattheus will pitch the eighth inning, up three runs. Both Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen pitched the last two days, so perhaps one or both is not available. We'll have to see who gets up in the pen to warm up for the ninth.
9:20 p.m. -- Nice job by Mattheus, who worked around an infield single (that included a throwing error on Espinosa, who tried to make a ridiculous play and failed). I'll tell you what: Mattheus has really been a revelation this season. Throws 95 mph, seems to locate well, and he's been used a lot. Nice pick-up. It's still 5-2 heading to the bottom of the eighth.
9:26 p.m. -- OK, here we go: Drew Storen to pitch the ninth, up three runs. Freeman, Uggla and Heyward due up for the Braves.
9:37 p.m. -- That's your ballgame. Nats win 5-3. Hernandez (6-10) gets the win. Storen gets his 27th save in 31 tries, though not before serving up a towering homer to Uggla and a one-out single to Heyward. Still, he got out of it. So just like that, the Nationals have won three in a row.