Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nats wrap up their series at Turner Field this afternoon.
Karns impressed in his debut Tuesday against the Orioles, but he'll need to take it up another notch today against Atlanta, which has had some time to scout the right-hander. The key for Karns: Can he save something in the tank for the second time around the lineup and get through at least five innings?
Paul Maholm starts for the Braves, and he's been great against the Nationals so far this season, giving up two runs and seven hits in 15 2/3 innings. The left-hander will be facing a lineup that today features a 6-7-8 of Tyler Moore, Danny Espinosa and Jhonatan Solano. The rationale for starting Espinosa, despite his struggles: He's traditionally a much better right-handed hitter. The problem: He's hitting .129 from the right side of the plate this year, worse than his .168 average from the left side.
Updates to come, so please check back...
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at ATLANTA BRAVES
Where: Turner Field
Gametime: 1:35 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500), XM 186
Weather: Chance of storms, 81 degrees, Wind 8 mph out to CF
CF Denard Span
LF Steve Lombardozzi
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
RF Tyler Moore
2B Danny Espinosa
C Jhonatan Solano
RHP Nate Karns
SS Andrelton Simmons
3B Ramiro Pena
RF Justin Upton
1B Freddie Freeman
LF Evan Gattis
C Brian McCann
2B Dan Uggla
CF B.J. Upton
LHP Paul Maholm
HP Brian Gorman (cc)
1B Manny Gonzalez
2B Tony Randazzo
3B Larry Vanover
1:36 p.m. — And we're underway with a strike from Paul Maholm to Denard Span. It's a warm, 83-degree, muggy afternoon here, but no sign of rain yet.
1:41 p.m. — A one-out single from Steve Lombardozzi, but that was immediately wiped out on Ryan Zimmerman's 5-4-3 double play to end the top of the first. Here's Nate Karns for his second big-league start.
1:55 p.m. — Uh-oh. Zimmerman with his most awkward-looking throw in weeks, resulting in his 10th error. And wouldn't you know it, Ramiro Pena crushed the very next pitch to right for a two-run homer. Props to Karns, though, for recomposing himself and getting through the inning. He struck out both Freddie Freeman and Evan Gattis looking, then got Brian McCann to ground out. 20 pitches, 16 of them strikes. But the Nats trail 2-0 after one.
2:10 p.m. — Wow, the Nats catch a break for once, and as a result this game is tied. It began with an impressive string of three straight hits from Adam LaRoche (double), Ian Desmond (bunt single) and Tyler Moore (RBI single). That brought home one run, but it looked like the Nats would waste a chance to add more when Danny Espinosa struck out, Jhonatan Solano grounded out and Karns rapped a grounder to the right side. But Maholm took his eye off the ball trying to step on first base and wound up dropping the throw from Freeman. Run scores and so it's now 2-2 in the middle of the second.
2:21 p.m. — Looks like B.J. Upton has suddenly become a fan favorite in Atlanta again. After delivering the game-winning hit last night, he just destroyed a 1-0 fastball from Karns to left to put the Braves back on top 3-2. That's the fourth homer Karns has allowed in 6 1/3 big-league innings. That wasn't his reputation coming in from Harrisburg.
2:40 p.m. — Update from Potomac, where Jayson Werth just hit a three-run homer. He's now 7-for-12 on rehab at Class A and remains very much on track to come off the DL on Tuesday.
2:45 p.m. — Karns, to be honest, is fortunate he hasn't given up more than three runs so far in three innings. The Braves have made some really solid contact against him. He's at 58 pitches (40 strikes) through three, nearly a 20-pitch-per-inning pace. If he keeps that up, he's not going to survive up here very long. Still 3-2 Braves after three.
2:49 p.m. — Whoa, interesting development just now. Maholm plunked Espinosa in the rear-end, at which point Danny took a step toward the mound and had a word for the left-hander before walking to first base. Nothing else happened after that, but keep an eye out for any residual shenanigans the rest of the afternoon. Still 3-2 heading to the bottom of the fourth.
2:58 p.m. — Finally, a 1-2-3 inning for Karns, who certainly needed one. He's managed to keep the deficit at 3-2 and his pitch count at 73. So he should be good for at least one more inning. Heading to the fifth now.
3:04 p.m. — Zero hits for the Nationals since Moore's RBI single with no outs in the second. Since then, they're 0-for-13 with a hit batter against Maholm. Still 3-2.
3:24 p.m. — Try as he might to get through the fifth for the first time, Karns just couldn't do it. With two outs and man on, he really needed to get Gattis. Instead, he walked him, and with the left-handed McCann stepping to the plate, Davey decided he couldn't wait any longer to make a move. Out went Karns, in came Zach Duke, who had to really battle McCann and ultimately lost the fight. After fouling off several two-strike pitches, McCann poked an opposite-field RBI single to left. Amazing what a difference it makes when a guy is able to do that in a big situation. It's 4-2 Braves after five, and Karns is in line for the loss.
3:34 p.m. — Dewsmond to the rescue. He snapped the Nats' 0-for-15 streak against Maholm with a rocket down the left field line. Unfortunately, nobody was on base, so the deficit is still 4-3 as we go to the bottom of the sixth. Meanwhile, the end of the world is about to hit Turner Field. Super-dark clouds descending on us. It's about to start pouring.
3:51 p.m. — Zach Duke faced eight batters today. His line: .2 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 0 K. Not very good. The big blow was Freeman's bases-loaded blast off the top of the left-field wall, which caromed back into play. Larry Vanover, who never moved an inch from his position behind third base to get a better look at the play, called it a double, at which point Fredi Gonzalez came out to argue. The umps convened and looked at the replay and the call stood. (Vanover, you may remember, was involved in a couple of similar calls involving the Nats at Citi Field a couple years ago.) Anyways, Duke was done after that and in came Erik Davis to make his big-league debut. And the rook came through, getting two groundball outs to escape the inning. It's 6-3 Braves after six, and this is the portion of our program where we remind you the Nats have yet to come back from more than two runs to win a game this season.
4:08 p.m. — Davey didn't want to throw Davis to the wolves in the 10th inning last night, but the kid may earn his manager's trust if he keeps pitching like this. He's faced five batters and retired all five (two on strikeouts) in his big-league debut. Nicely done. Still 6-3 moving to the eighth.
4:18 p.m. — Since Moore's RBI single in the second, the Nationals are 1-for-23 at the plate. The only hit: Desmond's solo homer. Now they're down to their last three outs.
4:25 p.m. — Another nice inning of relief from Fernando Abad. We head to the ninth, still 6-3 as Craig Kimbrel enters to face LaRoche, Desmond and a pinch-hitter (Chad Tracy).
4:32 p.m. — That's it. Kimbrel closes out a 6-3 Braves victory, so the Nats drop two of three this weekend, fall below .500 and fall to a season-high 6 1/2 games behind the division leaders.