Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Winners of four straight, the Nationals attempt to sweep the Braves today.
Today, Wang takes the mound for his second start, and this time there will be some expectation that he show improvement from his Nationals debut. Davey Johnson isn't suddenly looking for six shutout innings from the Taiwanese hurler, but he would like to see a more consistent sinker and better command of his breaking balls.
If Wang can keep his team in the game, the Nats will have a chance to sweep the Braves and win their fifth straight, moving back to within two games of the .500 mark. It's currently raining at Nationals Park, and the grounds crew just put the tarp over the infield, but the forecast calls for things to be clear from 12-5 p.m., so they should be able to get this one in.
Check back for updates...
BRAVES at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:05 p.m.
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 184
Weather: Chance of storms, 87 degrees, Wind 7 mph out to LF
STARTING LINEUPS11:55 a.m. -- Your daily Stephen Strasburg update: He'll throw a side session tomorrow in Viera, and assuming all goes well, he'll pitch 1-2 innings for low-Class A Hagerstown on Sunday. Also, Ivan Rodriguez could begin a rehab assignment with Hagerstown this weekend and catch Strasburg's start. Full story coming...
CF Rick Ankiel
2B Danny Espinosa
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Michael Morse
RF Jayson Werth
LF Laynce Nix
SS Ian Desmond
C Jesus Flores
P Chien-Ming Wang
CF Michael Bourn
3B Martin Prado
1B Freddie Freeman
2B Dan Uggla
LF Eric Hinske
SS Alex Gonzalez
C David Ross
P Brandon Beachy
LF Jose Constanza
1:06 p.m. -- And we're underway. Chien-Ming Wang starts off Michael Bourn with an 89 mph sinker for ball one.
1:20 p.m. -- Another laborious first inning for Wang, who wound up allowing two runs on three hits and a walk and throwing 28 pitches (only 14 strikes). That said, nobody really hit the ball that hard, aside from maybe Dan Uggla, who tagged one down the third-base line and beat Ryan Zimmerman's off-line throw to first. Braves take an early 2-0 lead.
1:29 p.m. -- Have to say, it is nice to see several of the Nats' previously slumping hitters to all start getting hot at the same time. We've talked about Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond lately, but don't forget Ryan Zimmerman. With a single up the middle in the bottom of the first, he has extended his hitting streak to 12 games (best among any Nats player this season) and raised his batting average to .286.
1:36 p.m. -- Much better second inning from Wang. He retired the side on 10 pitches (eight strikes). His stuff certainly seems to be there (throwing in the low 90s). Just a matter of refining it and re-discovering his touch. Braves still lead 2-0 heading to the bottom of the second.
1:51 p.m. -- Another solid inning for Wang. He did allow an infield single in the third (with Espinosa nearly making a brilliant play) but got a double-play grounder out of David Ross to end the inning. He's thrown only 19 pitches (14 strikes) over the last two innings, and the Braves still aren't making very good contact against him. Still 2-0, though, as the Nats try to solve Brandon Beachy.
2:00 p.m. -- By the way, I know some of you have been engaged in an interesting John Lannan discussion. I forgot to include this in last night's game thread, but it's been exactly one year since Lannan was recalled from the minors. During that time, he's made 34 starts, totaling 201 1/3 innings. He's 14-10 with a 3.58 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP. That, folks, is a solid No. 3 starter in the big leagues.
2:26 p.m. -- Well, that fell apart rather quickly for Wang. He caught several breaks in the top of the fifth (including some terrible baserunning by his counterpart Beachy) but couldn't fight through it. Wound up serving up a 3-run homer to Dan Uggla on an 84-mph slider. All of a sudden, it's 6-0 Braves, and though four of the runs are officially unearned, Wang is still to blame. It was his throwing error that started the big inning just now. That should do it for him. Final line: 5 ip, 7 h, 6 r, 2 er, 1 bb, 0 k, 86 pitches (54 strikes). Better than last time, but still plenty of improvement needed.
2:47 p.m. -- One final thought on Lannan. Just did some research, and there are only 10 NL pitchers who over the last calendar year have at least 14 wins, a sub-3.60 ERA and at least 200 innings. Lannan is one of them. The rest are all the big names you'd expect (Halladay, Lincecum, Hamels, Cain, Carpenter, Hudson and others).
3:04 p.m. -- The good news: Here come the Nats! They've scored four runs in the bottom of the sixth, with Morse delivering an RBI single and Werth belting a 2-run homer. The bad news: It's pouring here, and they just pulled the Braves off the field. So we're in a rain delay, with nobody out in the bottom of the sixth, Nix on first base, Desmond at the plate and the Nats trailing 6-4.
3:14 p.m. -- And they're already removing the tarp, so this won't be a terribly long delay. Stay tuned.
3:26 p.m. -- And we're back after a delay of only 22 minutes. Still nobody out in the bottom of the sixth, Nix on first, Desmond at the plate against Anthony Varvaro.
3:38 p.m. -- Chance for the Nats to complete the rally falls flat. Both Desmond and Flores struck out looking at borderline pitches from Varvaro. Then after pinch-hitter Brian Bixler drew a walk to put two on with two out, Fredi Gonzalez summoned lefty Eric O'Flaherty to face Rick Ankiel. Davey Johnson could've sent up Jonny Gomes to hit, but instead left Ankiel in to face the lefty. He got ahead in the count 2-0, then flied out weakly to left field. So we're finally headed to the seventh inning, the Braves still leading 6-4.
3:44 p.m. -- Nice 1-2-3 seventh from Sean Burnett. Always an encouraging sign. Not an encouraging sign: The Nats are going to have to rally against the meat of the Braves' bullpen. But O'Flaherty, Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel all boast 0.00 ERAs since July 1.
3:51 p.m. -- And O'Flaherty makes quick work of three of the Nats' best right-handed hitters. Espinosa flies out to shallow left field. Zimmerman strikes out looking at a 93 mph on the inside corner. Morse strikes out swinging. We go to the eighth, still 6-4 Braves.
4:05 p.m. -- And Venters makes quick work of the eighth inning. Retires the side with a pair of strikeouts. Werth did smoke a liner, but right at Uggla for the first out. Nix and Desmond each went down swinging. So the Nats are down to their last three outs.
4:25 p.m. -- And Kimbrel makes quick work of the ninth inning. Wow, that triumvirate of destruction retired all 10 batters faced to close this game out. Nats lose 6-4, ending their four-game winning streak.