Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Chien-Ming Wang faces Brandon Beachy today at Nationals Park.
Davey Johnson wanted to make sure Pudge got an opportunity to start two more games: This one and Wednesday's finale at Florida, where Rodriguez was a World Series hero in 2003. Given the progress Wilson Ramos and Jesus Flores have made this season, there is no realistic chance the Nats will re-sign Pudge for 2012. So that makes this his swan song, and hopefully the fans here will recognize it the way they did last night when he came up to pinch-hit and got a standing ovation.
Chien-Ming Wang also makes his final appearance of the season today, his 11th start since returning from major shoulder surgery. Like Rodriguez, Wang is due to become a free agent. Unlike Rodriguez, he appears likely to return; the two sides have begun preliminary talks on a new contract.
Updates to come, so please check back...
BRAVES at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:05 p.m.
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 184
Weather: Chance of rain, 76 degrees, Wind 4 mph in from RF
STARTING LINEUPS1:06 p.m. -- We're underway with a ball from Chien-Ming Wang to Michael Bourn. It's a cool, overcast afternoon, but it appears it will stay dry.
SS Ian Desmond
CF Rick Ankiel
3B Ryan Zimmerman
LF Michael Morse
RF Jayson Werth
2B Danny Espinosa
1B Chris Marrero
C Ivan Rodriguez
P Chien-Ming Wang
CF Michael Bourn
LF Martin Prado
3B Chipper Jones
2B Dan Uggla
C Brian McCann
1B Freddie Freeman
SS Jack Wilson
RF Jason Heyward
P Brandon Beachy
1:10 p.m. -- A 1-2-3, eight-pitch top of the first, with two groundballs and a strikeout for Wang? That'll work.
1:25 p.m. -- Say what you want about Ivan Rodriguez, but the guy still has a cannon of a right arm. He just ended the top of the second by throwing out Brian McCann, the 11th would-be basestealer he's gunned down in 23 tries this season. Still scoreless heading to the bottom of the second.
1:42 p.m. -- Chris Marrero delivers his 10th career RBI with a base hit up the middle, scoring Jayson Werth and putting the Nats up 1-0. Unfortunately, they squandered a chance to pad that lead when Pudge struck out and Danny Espinosa was thrown out trying to steal third to end the bottom of the second.
1:53 p.m. -- Wow, what a catch by Rick Ankiel to rob Bourn of extra bases and end the top of the third. Went way back and caught the ball back over his shoulder just in front of the fence. Really nice play to keep this a 1-0 game in the middle of the third.
2:00 p.m. -- For all the angst among Braves fans over the state of their rotation, maybe Brandon Beachy is answer to all their problems. He's already got seven strikeouts today in only three innings and now has 167 K's in only 138.2 innings this season. That's 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings, which would be the fourth-highest rate in MLB history for a rookie pitcher with at least 24 starts (behind Kerry Wood, Dwight Gooden and Hideo Nomo). What about Stephen Strasburg, you ask? Well, he actually bested them all with a 12.2 strikeouts-per-9-innings rate last season, but he only made 12 starts.
2:11 p.m. -- Four scoreless innings in the books for Wang, who has looked quite sharp so far in scattering three hits while throwing 56 pitches. Meanwhile, congrats to Jayson Werth on being declared the winner of today's president's race. Seriously. He, Rick Ankiel and several relievers ran interference on the four regular competitors, holding them back and preventing any from actually completing the race. So when Werth came jogging across the tape, arms extended, PA man Jerome Hruska declared the right fielder the winner.
2:29 p.m. -- And the Nats break this one open with three runs in the bottom of the fourth. Credit to Espinosa, who continued his late-season surge with a two-run single scoring Zimmerman and Werth. Espinosa is now hitting .391 over his last 13 games, salvaging what had been a wretched second half. Then, the Braves elected to intentionally walk Ivan Rodriguez to bring up Wang with two outs and two on. And what happened? Wang delivered an RBI single to right for the first hit of his career. Only took 33 big-league at-bats before it happened. Nats lead 4-0 after four.
2:34 p.m. -- And Wang immediately gives one of the runs back as Rookie of the Year candidate Freddie Freeman tags a 3-1 pitch into the Red Porch to open the fifth. It's now 4-1.
2:56 p.m. -- Six innings in the books, and that might be it for Wang, who has allowed just one run over 85 pitches. If this ends his season, he certainly closed it out strong. Over his final nine starts, he could wind up 4-1 with a 3.69 ERA. It's pretty much accepted now that the Nats will re-sign him this winter.
3:03 p.m. -- Yep, that'll put a wrap on Wang's impressive 2011 comeback season. Tom Gorzelanny in to pitch the top of the seventh, trying to protect a 4-1 lead.
3:16 p.m. -- You know, Gorzelanny has really blossomed into nice reliever. The problem: If the Nats bring him back next year, he'll be guaranteed at least $2.5 million or more because he's arbitration-eligible. Can't see them spending that much money on a middle reliever. One of the (many) flaws of baseball's salary structure system. Still 4-1 at the seventh-inning stretch.
3:36 p.m. -- Another runner caught stealing by Pudge, who is now at 50 percent for the season. He gets a standing ovation from the crowd. Wondering if Davey will pull him from the game early to let him depart to another ovation.
3:54 p.m. -- That's your ballgame. Nats win 4-1 to deal the Braves a setback in their wild-card pursuit. The Cardinals rallied to beat the Cubs, so they now trail Atlanta by only two games. So the Braves cannot clinch tomorrow at Nationals Park. Chien-Ming Wang improves to 4-3. Drew Storen gets his 41st save. Pudge gets a nice sendoff from the D.C. fans.