Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nationals look to make it four in a row tonight against the Braves.
Both guys are in the lineup tonight against the Braves, with Ankiel again leading off and Werth batting fifth. John Lannan starts for the Nationals, hoping to pitch deep into the game, but knowing there's a little more help in the bullpen now just in case.
Collin Balester was recalled from Class AAA Syracuse, with Atahualpa Severino getting optioned without having appeared in a game. Balester had been pitching in long relief in Syracuse, and Davey Johnson would like to use him (and Tom Gorzelanny now) in that role in the big leagues.
One other bullpen note: Keep in mind that Drew Storen has pitched three straight days. If the Nats hold a late lead tonight, don't be surprised if someone else (ie. Tyler Clippard) is used in the ninth inning. Updates to come...
BRAVES at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 184
Weather: Partly cloudy, 93 degrees, Wind 9 mph out to RF
STARTING LINEUPS5:09 p.m. -- An update on Ivan Rodriguez, who spoke to Davey Johnson yesterday: Pudge is just about ready to begin a rehab assignment after missing 25 days with a strained oblique muscle. He's been at his home in Miami rehabbing and working with a physical therapist, but he's scheduled to come to Washington tomorrow to meet with team doctors and officials here, then embark on the rehab assignment as the club heads out on a road trip.
CF Rick Ankiel
2B Danny Espinosa
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Michael Morse
RF Jayson Werth
LF Jonny Gomes
SS Ian Desmond
C Wilson Ramos
P John Lannan
CF Michael Bourn
LF Martin Prado
1B Freddie Freeman
2B Dan Uggla
SS Alex Gonzalez
3B Brooks Conrad
C David Ross
RF Jose Constanza
P Derek Lowe
7:06 p.m. -- John Lannan fires a strike to Michael Bourn, and this game is underway under cloudy skies. By the way, for those wondering why Jonny Gomes is starting tonight over Laynce Nix against a right-handed starter, couple of reasons from Davey Johnson: 1) Because of his nagging Achilles' injury, Nix wasn't going to start both tonight and tomorrow afternoon, 2) Gomes has good numbers against Derek Lowe (4-for-9, 2B, HR), and 3) Because the Braves have so many good left-handed setup men, Johnson would rather have the right-handed Gomes in the lineup for most of the game, then use Nix late against closer Craig Kimbrel.
7:10 p.m. -- Lannan mows 'em down in the top of the first. Strikes out Bourn. Gets Martin Prado on a slow roller to third (helped by a nice sidearm throw from Ryan Zimmerman). Then gets Freddie Freeman on a comebacker that perhaps momentarily had Lannan's life flashing before his eyes. No worries, he caught the ball cleanly and threw to first to complete a 10-pitch top of the first.
7:15 p.m. -- You know who has really started looking like his old self? Zimmerman. He just singled to left to extend his hitting streak to 11 games. Going back even farther, Zim is now batting a robust .355 over his last 25 games. A very encouraging sign. Still scoreless after one inning, though.
7:40 p.m. -- Speaking of guys on a hot streak ... Jayson Werth continues to resurrect his season. Led off the bottom of the second with a single to right, then stole second and took third on a bad throw by David Ross. Ian Desmond's sac fly to right brought him home and put the Nats up 1-0.
7:48 p.m. -- And the Braves get two runs back in the top of the third. Ross and George Costanza ... er, Jose Constanza started things off with back-to-back singles. A nice throw by Morse on a sac bunt attempt got Ross at third, but Bourn followed with an RBI double to right, and Prado added a run-scoring groundball. So it's 2-1 Braves.
8:12 p.m. -- The Braves are dinking and doinking Lannan to death right now. Three more hits in the fourth, all singles, to add another run. Making matters worse, he walked Derek Lowe on a high 3-2 fastball, prolonging the inning. Lannan has already thrown 72 pitches, though 52 of them have been strikes. He's not missing the plate much. The Braves are just making solid contact a lot and have taken a 3-1 lead in the process.
8:23 p.m. -- Wow, that was quite an interesting bottom of the fourth. Let's start with Jonny Gomes, who was on third base with the bases loaded and Lannan at the plate. Lannan bounced a ball to Freeman, who fired to the plate for what should have been an easy force out. Except Gomes gave David Ross a full-on take-out slide, preventing the catcher from keeping his foot on the plate. Can't say I've ever seen a player slide into the plate quite like that. Gomes was safe, but I wouldn't be surprised if he gets a pitch in his ear the next time he's up. Not that the Nats are complaining, because Ankiel came up after that with the bases still loaded and crushed a ball over the center-field fence. Grand slam for Babe Ruth...er, Rick Ankiel, who is absolutely on fire right now. The Nats have stunningly taken a 6-3 lead in the fourth.
8:40 p.m. -- Gomes leads off the fifth with a triple down the left-field line, setting up a potential reunion with Ross at the plate. Except there's no chance for a play at the plate when the next batter puts the ball in the seats. Ian Desmond with the 2-run shot, his first homer since April 28. Speaking of guys starting to come around at the plate ... Desmond has looked much better lately. Seems like this coincides with Davey Johnson moving him out of the 8-hole and into the 7-hole. As a matter of fact, it's been seven games since Desmond was bumped up in the order. His stats during that time: .316 average, .381 OBP, three extra-base hits, five RBI. Hmm ... Nats now lead 8-3, and Derek Lowe has been yanked.
8:59 p.m. -- Credit to Lannan, who was given a big lead and put the clamps down on the Braves. He struck out the side in the sixth, giving him a season-high seven for the night. ... And now Morse crushes a pitch from Christhian Martinez into the second deck in deep right-center for his 18th homer of the season. Can't say I remember too many right-handed hitters doing that in this ballpark. Elijah Dukes did it. I think Ryan Zimmerman may have, too. Nats now lead 9-3.
9:14 p.m. -- Davey tried to squeeze seven full innings out of Lannan, but he finally hit a wall. Gave up a couple of two-out hits, so Davey brought in Henry Rodriguez to put out the fire. Still, Lannan ends up with a season-high eight strikes and matches his career high with 80 strikes.
9:32 p.m. -- Henry Rodriguez: Four batters faced. Four batters retired. Two strikeouts. He, and the Nats, needed that. It's 9-3 heading to the bottom of the eighth.
9:49 p.m. -- That's your ballgame. Rodriguez records seven outs, four of them via K, and the Nats win, 9-3. It's the most-lopsided victory since Davey Johnson took over, and a four-game winning streak, all against NL opponents.
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