Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Stephen Strasburg takes the mound in scorching-hot Atlanta today.
We'll see how Strasburg deals with the scorching heat, and we'll see if the Nationals' lineup can continue to produce the way it has the last four days. Through the first 71 games this season, this team averaged eight hits. Through the last four games, it's averaging 16 hits.
If you're able to watch the game today, enjoy. If not, I'll have plenty of updates and analysis right here...
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at ATLANTA BRAVES
Where: Turner Field
Gametime: 4:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 184
Weather: Sunny, 104 degrees, Wind 3 mph out to RF
2B Danny Espinosa
CF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
RF Michael Morse
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
LF Tyler Moore
C Jesus Flores
RHP Stephen Strasburg
CF Michael Bourn
LF Martin Prado
RF Jason Heyward
1B Freddie Freeman
2B Dan Uggla
C Brian McCann
SS Andrelton Simmons
3B Juan Francisco
LHP Mike Minor
HP Marvin Hudson, 1B Tim McClelland (cc), 2B Brian Runge, 3B Ted Barrett
4:08 p.m. -- 104 degrees as Mike Minor delivers a strike to Danny Espinosa. Yes, 104 degrees.
4:15 p.m. -- A nice start to the afternoon for the Nats. Espinosa led off the game with a double into the left-field corner. (Did we mention he's batting right-handed today?) Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman then each grounded into productive outs, bringing Espinosa home with the day's first run. Michael Morse absolutely smoked a ball to center field but Michael Bourn snagged it above his head, his left arm nearly getting pulled out of its socket due to the force with which that ball was struck. 1-0 Nats as Stephen Strasburg takes the mound.
4:29 p.m. -- Uh-oh, is something wrong with Strasburg? He threw only four of his first 12 pitches for strikes, walking both Michael Bourn and Martin Prado. Nope, it appears he's perfectly fine, because he then threw nine of his last 12 pitches for strikes, blowing away Jason Heyward with a 95 mph fastball and Dan Uggla with a 96 mph heater to end the first inning.
4:40 p.m. -- What's the dumbest move in sports right now? How about intentionally walking whoever's batting in front of Stephen Strasburg. Fredi Gonzalez just learned that the hard way when he held up four fingers with Jesus Flores stepping to the plate, two outs and a man on third. That brought up Strasburg, who of course roped an RBI single up the middle. Seriously, this guy is a REALLY good hitter. Babe Strasburg is now batting .375 with a 1.067 OPS. And the Nats lead 2-0 in the second.
4:52 p.m. -- It would appear Strasburg is good and warm now (not that it took much today). He's retired six straight, three on strikeouts, and he's dialing up his fastball to 97 mph now.
5:16 p.m. -- Strasburg may be good and warm, but he's also drenched in sweat and looks completely fatigued out there. His third inning was difficult to watch, as he took his time between pitches to gather himself. He wound up allowing three runs on two hits (both RBI doubles) and two walks (to Bourn and Prado again). Through three innings, Strasburg is already at 67 pitches. And honestly, he doesn't look like he wants any part of taking that mound here again today. Braves now lead 3-2 heading to the fourth.
5:23 p.m. -- The last place Strasburg wanted to be in the top of the fourth was the batter's box. And the last thing he wanted to do once he was there was actually swing the bat. Which he didn't. Except Minor still walked him, forcing Strasburg to have to run the bases. At this point, he's trying to conserve every ounce of energy he's got. It ain't pretty.
5:29 p.m. -- And as the top of the fourth begins, Strasburg does not emerge from the dugout. Davey Johnson eventually walked out to talk to plate umpire Marvin Hudson and then signaled for Chien-Ming Wang out of the bullpen. Wang was allowed to throw as many warm-up tosses as he needed, which you can only do if the previous pitcher was pulled for a physical reason (or was ejected, which obviously didn't happen here). I would not be surprised at all if we find out Strasburg had heat exhaustion. His final line: 3 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 67 pitches, 36 strikes.
5:45 p.m. -- Well, this has turned ugly in a hurry. Wang gave up three runs in the bottom of the fourth, putting the Braves on top 6-2. For those wondering why this game was scheduled for 4:05 p.m., it's because Fox has the exclusive window for all games between 7-10 p.m. Really, there should be some kind of provision that allows for a starting time to be moved back to the evening hours in case of extreme heat like this. The locals tell me the Braves have never scheduled a Saturday afternoon game in the summer, not unless it was for national TV purposes.
5:48 p.m. -- And here's the official word from the Nats: Strasburg left today's game due to "heat-related issues."
5:59 p.m. -- Another inning, another run for the Braves off Wang. It's now 7-2 after five.
6:16 p.m. -- I'm curious which of these two developments is more pleasing to Nats fans right now: 1) They scored two runs in the top of the sixth to cut the deficit to 7-4, or 2) Chien-Ming Wang is no longer in this game? I think I know the answer. Tom Gorzelanny on for the bottom of the sixth.
6:44 p.m. -- Big chance for the Nats in the top of the seventh, with LaRoche drilling his second double of the day to score Morse and trim the lead to 7-5. Chad Durbin (who failed to make the Nats' bullpen out of spring training) entered and immediately walked Desmond and Moore to load the bases for Flores. Pitching coach Roger McDowell went out to talk to Durbin and threatened to spit on him if he didn't start throwing strikes* and Durbin responded by getting Flores to ground into a fielder's choice. So the deficit is down to 2 runs, and this one isn't over quite yet. (*-Seinfeld reference.)
6:52 p.m. -- Nice job by Gorzelanny to toss two scoreless innings and keep the Nats in this game. It remains 7-5 as we head to the eighth, a pinch-hitter and then the top of the lineup due up against Durbin.
7:01 p.m. -- The Nats go down 1-2-3 in the eighth. So now they're down to their final three outs.
7:13 p.m. -- Here we go. It's Zimmerman, Morse and LaRoche against Craig Kimbrel in the ninth inning. Should be good stuff.
7:22 p.m. -- It's over. Kimbrel finishes this one off and sends the Nats to a 7-5 loss. We'll see how Strasburg is feeling when we get to the clubhouse in a few minutes.