Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nats open a big, three-game series at Turner Field tonight.
After asking their relievers to churn out eight innings in that wild game yesterday, the Nationals could desperately use a quality start out of Detwiler, who has reached the seventh inning only once in 10 previous starts this year.
The Nationals could also use a continuation of their offensive explosion from Coors Field. The air here certainly isn't as thin, though the scorching hot temperature should help the ball fly somewhat.
Plenty of updates to come live from Turner Field, so please check back often from the comforts of your air-conditioned living rooms...
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at ATLANTA BRAVES
Where: Turner Field
Gametime: 7:35 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv.
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 184
Weather: Sunny, 101 degrees, Wind 6 mph LF 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 Ross Detwiler
CF Michael Bourn
SS Andrelton Simmons
RF Jason Heyward
3B Chipper Jones
C Brian McCann
LF Matt Diaz
1B Freddie Freeman
2B Jack Wilson
RHP Randall Delgado
HP Ted Barrett, 1B Marvin Hudson, 2B Tim McClelland (cc), 3B Brian Runge
7:00 p.m. -- Some of you have been asking why Tyler Moore isn't in the lineup tonight after Davey Johnson suggested he would be getting more playing time. Well, part of the problem is that if Moore starts against right-handers (with Steve Lombardozzi on the bench), the Nats don't really have a viable leadoff hitter. Johnson has used Danny Espinosa in that role against lefties, but he's not quite comfortable yet leading Espinosa off against right-handers. Here's Davey's full quote when I asked him about that dilemma today: "I mean those are things that managers think about. I've got a young kid [Moore] who's swinging the bat pretty damn good, and if I put him in there that also changes someone else's role against right-handed pitching and who would my leadoff guy be? A lot of that is how other guys do. Espinosa is showing me a lot of progress with his hitting, and you know, he would probably be a really outstanding, good leadoff hitter. I like leading off a switch-hitter because you're always going to have a matchup in your favor. I think about all those things. I'll answer your question by putting them on the field against a right-hander. You'll know then it's time."
7:36 p.m. -- And we are underway on a 101-degree night. Yep, 101 degrees at 7:36 p.m. But at least it's a wet heat...
7:46 p.m. -- Couple of hits for the Nats in the top of the first as Bryce Harper beats out a chopper to third and Ryan Zimmerman sends another single to right. But an Adam LaRoche 4-6-3 double play killed the potential rally and sends Ross Detwiler to the mound for the bottom of the first. Oh, by the way, the Turner Field organist (who is known to come up with some very clever songs for opposing hitters) played "Send in the Clowns" when Harper stepped to the plate. Nicely done.
7:53 p.m. -- Speaking of "nicely done," Detwiler just cruised through the bottom of the first on only 13 pitches, getting two groundballs and a weak flyball to center. Solid start to the night for the lefty, who really needs to give the Nats at least six innings tonight.
8:10 p.m. -- Well, the Nats have taken a 1-0 lead. How they managed to do that, I have no idea because they were trying their hardest not to score in the top of the second. Danny Espinosa delivered a perfect hit-and-run single to right ... perfect except for the part where Michael Morse slowed down rounding second for no good reason. No worries, he made it to third fine. That, however, set up the strangest stolen base attempts you'll ever see, with Espinosa making it two-thirds of the way to second base before stopping dead in his tracks and getting caught in a rundown. Yet he somehow managed to get back to first base safely each time. Then Jesus Flores struck out on a 3-2 pitch that sure looked below the knees, only to be picked up by Detwiler, who roped an RBI single to right for his first hit in 15 at-bats this season. (He also very nearly was thrown out by Jason Heyward on the play.) Bizarrely, the Nats are up 1-0.
8:31 p.m. -- Good lord is the Braves' infield defense a disaster tonight, or what? Jack Wilson, Chipper Jones and Andrelton Simmons all committed errors in a span of about 90 seconds in the top of the third. That set the stage for Desmond to rope a two-out, two-run base hit to left to score both men who reached on the aforementioned errors. Desmond, though, was thrown out trying to advance to third when a throw to the plate got away, very nearly Atlanta's fourth error of the inning. If you've lost track of what I'm trying to explain, all you really need to know is the Nats lead 3-0.
8:48 p.m. -- Is it just me, or does it seem like the more Jesus Flores takes a beating behind the plate, the more he mashes the ball at the plate? After taking another foul ball in the, um, nether regions in the bottom of the third, Flores destroyed a 2-2 pitch from Delgado into the left-field bleachers in the top of the fourth. The Nats now lead 4-0 and already have seven hits. Who says it was only the Coors Field effect?
8:59 p.m. -- Another scoreless inning for Detwiler, who has four of them tonight to go along with five in his last start. And he's only thrown 50 pitches so far in this one, showing some impressive efficiency.
9:10 p.m. -- So, Zimmerman now has 11 hits over his last 5 1/2 games since having a giant needle jammed into his right shoulder. But perhaps even more important to the Nationals, Morse now has 11 hits in his last 18 at-bats. He's raised his batting average from .217 to .287! That's remarkable.
9:22 p.m. -- Stop me if you've heard this one before: Ross Detwiler dominated for four innings, then got himself into a jam in the fifth. Much of this was self-inflicted, including a up-and-in pitch that grazed Juan Francisco and then a fielding error on Michael Bourn's comebacker. That loaded the bases with two outs for Andrelton Simmons and brought Steve McCatty out to the mound. This was kind of a big spot for Detwiler, who often has been unable to overcome adversity, especially as he gets deeper into starts. Well, this time he pulled it off, getting Simmons to fly out to right. That keeps the shutout intact and keeps the Nats up 4-0 as we head to the sixth.
9:37 p.m. -- Detwiler needed only seven pitches to get through the sixth, so now he's at only 74 pitches. Might we see him back on the mound for the seventh? I think so.
9:48 p.m. -- Yep, Ross is back out for the bottom of the seventh, the Nats still leading 4-0.
10:05 p.m. -- And Ross departs before he can finish the inning. Or hold the four-run lead. Major meltdown from the lefty. He plunked Freeman in the back. He couldn't field Wilson's soft comebacker. He was called for a balk. He served up an RBI single to Martin Prado. He let another run score on a sac fly. And then, the really big mistake: a hanging, 79-mph curveball to Simmons -- shoulder-high -- that was slammed into the first row of the left-field stands for the game-tying homer. Detwiler stood on the mound, hunched over, hands on knees in disbelief before Davey emerged from the dugout to take the ball from him. Brutal way for an otherwise fantastic night to end for Detwiler. It's now 4-4 as we head to the eighth.
10:13 p.m. -- Well, that's one way to seize back momentum of a ballgame. Michael Morse, ladies and gentlemen. Destroys Chad Durbin's very first pitch to deep right-center for his third homer of the season. Morse is now 4-for-4 tonight and 12 for his last 19. And he's given the Nats a 5-4 lead in the eighth.
10:32 p.m. -- Channeling his inner Jim Riggleman, Davey pulled Morse for defensive purposes in the bottom of the eighth in favor of Rick Ankiel, who took over in center field, with Bryce Harper moving to right field. Which means Ankiel, not Morse, will bat third in the top of the ninth. Fortunately, Sean Burnett got through the inning unscathed, striking out McCann and then getting Diaz to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning. It remains 5-4 as we go to the ninth and Tyler Clippard begins to warm.
10:39 p.m. -- Here we go: Clippard to face Freeman, a pinch-hitter and Martin Prado in the bottom of the ninth, clinging to a 5-4 lead.
10:52 p.m. -- Clippard made it interesting -- he gave up a leadoff double to Freeman and then issued a one-out walk to Prado -- but he came through when he needed to and secured his 13th save and a 5-4 victory for the Nationals, who now lead the Braves by 4 1/2 games.