Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nats open a four-game series at Turner Field tonight.
This does still remain an important series for the Nationals, who certainly want to avenge their earlier sweep at the hands of the Braves in D.C. And it's an important start tonight for Stephen Strasburg, who is mired in a four-game losing streak for the first time in his career even though he's pitched fairly well during that stretch.
As expected, Wilson Ramos has been activated off the 15-day disabled list, with Jhonatan Solano optioned back to Class AAA Syracuse. Ramos, though, is surprisingly not in the lineup tonight. Kurt Suzuki will be behind the plate working with Strasburg. Anthony Rendon also has the night off, with Chad Tracy starting at third base against Atlanta right-hander Julio Teheran.
Updates to come...
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at ATLANTA BRAVES
Where: Turner Field
Gametime: 7:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, ESPN, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 188
Weather: Partly cloudy, 74 degrees, Wind 4 mph out to CF
CF Denard Span
2B Danny Espinosa
LF Bryce Harper
RF Jayson Werth
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
3B Chad Tracy
C Kurt Suzuki
RHP Stephen Strasburg
RF Jordan Schafer
SS Andrelton Simmons
LF Justin Upton
1B Freddie Freeman
3B Chris Johnson
2B Dan Uggla
CF B.J. Upton
C Gerald Laird
RHP Julio Teheran
HP Laz Diaz
1B Tim Timmons
2B Mike Winters (cc)
3B Mark Wegner
7:11 p.m. — And we're underway. Julio Teheran starts Denard Span off with a fastball for ball one.
7:21 p.m. — Well, that proved to be a wasted opportunity for the Nats. Span had a great at-bat to get the game started, working the count full and then singling up the middle. But Danny Espinosa followed by striking out on three pitches, the last one over his head. And then Span was picked off first base. That really proved costly moments later when Bryce Harper roped a double down the right-field line. It might've scored Span ... had he still been on base. So the Nats fail to score despite recording a couple of hits. Here's Stephen Strasburg for a very important bottom of the first.
7:34 p.m. — Uh-oh, the First Inning Monster has returned for Strasburg. He fell behind 3-0 to Jordan Schafer, then ultimately walked the Braves leadoff man. Though he proceeded to strike out Andrelton Simmons, Schafer stole second on the pitch. That proved significant, because Justin Upton singled to right, driving the run home. Things might have been much worse, but the Nats caught a huge break when Freddie Freeman was caught straying too far off first base on his single to left (though replays showed him clearly safe). So even though Strasburg gave up two hard hits and a walk, he escaped allowing only one run. Still, the first inning continues to plague the right-hander. His first inning ERA this season is now 10.50. In every other inning, his ERA is 1.85. Braves up 1-0 after one.
7:50 p.m. — The good news: The Nats have taken the lead, thanks to four straight base hits to begin the second inning, including one from ... wait for it ... Adam LaRoche! Yes, the 0-for-26 nightmare is officially over, and for that, LaRoche can thank his buddy Chipper Jones (who offered some hitting advice earlier today). LaRoche's base hit to left was followed by singles from Ian Desmond, Chad Tracy and Kurt Suzuki, bringing home two runs. The bad news: The Nats squandered a great chance to really take it to Teheran. It began with Strasburg failing on three attempts to get a bunt down, the last of which he completely whiffed. That hung Tracy out to dry at second base, picked off for a bad doublt play. Span then struck out, so despite having racked up six hits already, the Nats lead only 2-1.
7:58 p.m. — Another wild inning in a game that's already featured plenty of wild stuff. Strasburg gave up a leadoff single, but he battled back to get out of the inning without any more damage. Well, except to Espinosa, who took Dan Uggla's knee off his own in a big collision at second base. Espinosa (who dropped the ball trying to make the turn on a 6-4-3 double play) was limping around afterward but stayed in. He's leading off the top of the the third, so we'll see how he's feeling. Still 2-1 Nats.
8:12 p.m. — Strasburg is overthrowing like crazy out there. He keeps losing his balance on his follow-through. But he's getting by, thanks in no small part to his defense in the bottom of the third. Span made a nice catch at the wall on Simmons' deep drive to center. Tracy and Espinosa then pulled off a nice 5-4-3 double play to end the inning and erase another leadoff walk to Schafer. So it remains 2-1 Nats after three, with Strasburg at 43 pitches (25 strikes).
8:21 p.m. — The Nats already have nine hits in four innings off Teheran, but they only have the two runs to show for it. Some missed opportunities, obviously.
8:32 p.m. — Strasburg continues to labor, but he's not being punished as much for it as he could be. He issued another leadoff walk (his third in four innings) and then a couple of singles, the last of which brought Freeman home from second. Fortunately, Span made a nice throw to third base to get the trailing runner, Uggla, to end the inning. So it's now 2-2 after four as Strasburg tries to shake whatever it is that's plaguing him right now.
8:50 p.m. — Stat of the night: Strasburg has pitched out of the windup to only five of the 22 batters he's faced tonight: The leadoff hitter in each inning. They've all reached, forcing him to pitch out of the stretch and really battle throughout. It has definitely been a battle, yet he's somehow made it through five innings allowing only two runs. For that, he can thank himself for blowing a 96 mph, 3-2 fastball past Justin Upton and then Tracy for making a nice snag of Freeman's roped liner to end the fifth. Strasburg has put 10 men on base so far, but this remains a 2-2 game heading to the sixth.
9:08 p.m. — How much do the Nats feel like they've let the Braves pitching staff off the hook so far tonight? A lot. Though they knocked Teheran out after 5 1/3 laborious innings, they managed to score only two runs off him. Then reliever Jordan Walden entered in a jam in the sixth and got out of it with ease. The Nats have 10 hits and a walk through six innings, but they've stranded six men on base and had two others thrown out on the bases. It's still 2-2, but they'll feel like they should be comfortably ahead right now.
9:18 p.m. — Well, at least Strasburg finished on a high note. He struck out the side in the sixth, finally getting Uggla (on a changeup) and also getting Johnson and B.J. Upton. His final line: 6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 8 K, 93 pitches, 53 strikes. You know, as much agonizing as there's been over him, Strasburg still sports a 3.13 ERA, 36 strikeouts and 12 walks in 37 1/3 innings this season. Obviously, the bar has been set extraordinarily high for him. Still 2-2 heading to the seventh.
9:37 p.m. — The leadoff walk gets the Nats yet again. Tyler Clippard put No. 8 hitter Gerald Laird on to open the bottom of the seventh and paid the price for it. Laird ultimately scored on Andrelton Simmons' sac fly to right, though a good throw from Werth would've had him. The throw was well wide of the plate. All three Braves' runs tonight have been scored by guys who reached base on leadoff walks. So the Nats now trail 3-2 and are down to their last six outs, facing a very tough Atlanta bullpen.
9:49 p.m. — Nothin' doin' against Eric O'Flaherty in the top of the eighth. Werth was in agony after fouling a ball off his left ankle/foot and could barely muster a swing after that in striking out. He's now been replaced in right field by Roger Bernadina as we move to the bottom of the eighth, the Nats needing to hold the Braves and then hope to mount a rally against Craig Kimbrel in the ninth.
9:55 p.m. — Dominant eighth inning from Drew Storen, who struck out both Johnson and Uggla. So it's onto the ninth, with Desmond, Tracy and Suzuki due up against Kimbrel.
10:03 p.m. — It's over. Nats lose 3-2, a game in which they'll feel like they should've taken a larger lead early. They've now dropped eight straight to the Braves, dating back to last season, and they trail the NL East by 3 1/2 games.