Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Gio Gonzalez goes for his eighth win of the season today at Nationals Park.
Gonzalez already dominated this Braves lineup lineup six days ago, allowing just one hit in seven innings. He'll look to pick up where he left off on Sunday Night Baseball.
Tommy Hanson, meanwhile, makes his first start of the year against the Nationals. They did beat the right-hander twice in three outings last season.
Plenty of updates to come on a beautiful afternoon from the ballpark, so please check back...
ATLANTA BRAVES at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:35 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, Ch. 50, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 185
Weather: Partly cloudy, 77 degrees, Wind 11 mph out to RF
LF Steve Lombardozzi
CF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
RF Michael Morse
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
C Jesus Flores
LHP Gio Gonzalez
CF Michael Bourn
3B Martin Prado
1B Freddie Freeman
2B Dan Uggla
LF Matt Diaz
RF Jason Heyward
C David Ross
SS Andrelton Simmons
RHP Tommy Hanson
HP Ron Kulpa, 1B D.J. Reyburn, 2B Jim Wolf, 3B Derryl Cousins (cc)
1:25 p.m. -- Breaking news: Gio Gonzalez has been named NL Pitcher of the Month for May. And Bryce Harper has been named NL Rookie of the Month for May. That's after Stephen Strasburg was previously named NL Pitcher of the Month for April. So, in two months, the Nats have had more NL monthly award winners than in the last seven years combined.
1:36 p.m. -- We are underway with a strike from Gonzalez to Michael Bourn. Another spectacular afternoon in the nation's capital, 74 degrees at first pitch. And it appears as though it'll be another full house today at the park.
1:43 p.m. -- A leadoff single by Bourn through the right-side hole put the Braves in position to inflict some first-inning damage, but the rally never materialized. Gonzalez struck out Martin Prado (as Bourn stole second base) and then got Freddie Freeman and Dan Uggla to fly out. So we head to the bottom of the first.
1:52 p.m. -- Well, that's not a bad way to get things started, huh? Steve Lombardozzi belts a 2-1 fastball from Tommy Hanson off the back wall of the right-field bullpen for his first career homer. Nice moment for Lombo, but he didn't get to savor it for long, because Bryce Harper crushed Hanson's very next pitch into the second deck in right field for his fifth career homer. Just a bomb from the 19-year-old. The Nats take an early 2-0 lead.
2:00 p.m. -- Gio again got himself into a little bit of trouble in the second, with David Ross blooping a two-out single to center and Andrelton Simmons delivering his first career hit with a double into the left-field corner. Simmons might have notched his first career RBI as well, but Ross was chugging around the bases like he had an elephant strapped to his back. Why not try to score, especially with the pitcher due up and two outs? Because Ross has been dealing with a bad groin. And with Brian McCann sidelined after taking a hard foul ball behind the plate yesterday, the Braves can't afford for their only semi-healthy catcher to go down. So Gio and the Nats caught a break, because Hanson struck out to end the inning and leave the runners stranded at second and third. Still 2-0 as we go to the bottom of the second.
2:09 p.m. -- Danny Espinosa couldn't have dropped a better drag bunt than he just executed if he had 100 cracks at it. Just perfect placement between the pitchers' mound and first base for a one-out single. And then he was able to take third on Jesus Flores' single to right. Gio sacrificed Flores to second, setting the stage for Lombardozzi. But Bourn made a fantastic, diving catch on Lombo's blooper to center. So it remains 2-0 after two.
2:20 p.m. -- The Braves get a run back in the third as Prado singles and Uggla sends a double to the wall in right-center. This provided Morse with his first opportunity to really throw a ball since he came off the DL, and he didn't exactly put a lot of mustard on it, though he did get the ball to Espinosa, whose relay was a tad late. So that makes it 2-1 as we go to the bottom of the third. Gio has already thrown 50 pitches.
2:30 p.m. -- Zimmerman continues to struggle to get himself going at the plate. He's now 0-for-2 today with a couple of groundouts, leaving him with a .236 average, .315 on-base percentage and .338 slugging percentage. For what it's worth, his splits through the same 148 at-bats last year weren't much better: .248/.339/.409. So there's still time for Zim to snap out of it (and there is some track record to suggest he can). That said, this isn't what the Nats paid $100 million for.
3:02 p.m. -- Gio had been playing with fire all afternoon, showing very little command and putting himself into several jams. And he finally got burned by it in the fifth via two singles, two walks (one intentional) and two wild pitches. He was one strike from getting out of the inning, but Heyward sent a soft liner into left field, scoring two and putting the Braves up 3-2. That also brought Davey Johnson out of the dugout for a surprising, early hook of Gio after only 91 pitches. It's the first time he's failed to go at least five innings since his first start of the season in Chicago when he lasted only 3 2/3 innings. Craig Stammen in now.
3:12 p.m. -- Harper came within a couple of feet of his second homer of the day (and sixth of the season) with a rocket off the out-of-town scoreboard in right-center. Denied the homer, he tried to stretch it into his fifth triple ... and was consequently thrown out. Bryce wasn't happy with himself for that moment of over-aggressiveness. Still 3-2 as we head to the sixth.
3:23 p.m. -- Things have settled down a bit. Nothing happening for either club in the sixth as Stammen and Hanson each retire the side. Morse did finally hit a ball hard. Unfortunately, it was right at shortstop Andrelton Simmons. Still 3-2 heading to the seventh.
3:30 p.m. -- Craig Stammen keeps doing what Craig Stammen does best: Retire hitters. He's set down nine in a row, which in essence has given the Nats the equivalent of a quality start. Combine Stammen and Gio Gonzalez and you end up with three runs allowed over seven innings. Now, can the Nats scratch out another run?
3:41 p.m. -- Don't worry, folks. They didn't suddenly change the rules and allow a pitcher to re-enter the game after being pulled. That's not Gio Gonzalez on the mound for the eighth. That's the just-promoted Mike Gonzalez.
3:47 p.m. -- Pretty nice job by Gonzalez in the eighth. He did allow a one-out single to Ross but bounced back with a double-play grounder to get out of the inning. Fastball sat at 92 mph. Not bad for his first big-league appearance of the year.
3:57 p.m. -- Well, the two rookies did their part to start the bottom of the eighth. Lombardozzi and Harper each drew walks to set the stage for the heart of the lineup. But that heart of the lineup once again came up short. Zimmerman got behind 0-2, battled back to 2-2, then grounded into another double play (4-6-3). And then LaRoche lofted a fly ball to the warning track in left. Rally killed. The Nats still trail 3-2 after eight.
4:07 p.m. -- Last chance for the Nats. It'll be Morse, Desmond and Espinosa in the bottom of the ninth against Craig Kimbrel.
4:14 p.m. -- Not today. Kimbrel finishes off the job, and the Nats suffer a 3-2 loss in what sure felt like a winnable game.