|Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER|
We'll also find out if the Nationals can produce at least a little bit in key situations at the plate. They went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position last night, the latest frustrating offensive showing in a season chock-full of them, but Davey Johnson has a new twist tonight: Ryan Zimmerman is batting second for the first time in his career, with Bryce Harper leading off and Jayson Werth hitting third. As Davey put it: "I was throwing things up against the wall, and this one stuck."
Julio Teheran starts for the Braves, seeking their 12th straight win and a 14 1/2-game lead in the NL East. The Nats have had some success against the right-hander this season, scoring nine runs on 23 hits in 18 innings over three head-to-head encounters.
There is a threat of rain later this evening, but the forecast shows it should stay dry until about 9 p.m. Check back for updates...
ATLANTA BRAVES at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB Network (outside D.C. market), MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500), XM 89
Weather: Chance of storms, 75 degrees, Wind 9 mph RF to LF
LF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
RF Jayson Werth
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
C Wilson Ramos
CF Denard Span
2B Anthony Rendon
LHP Gio Gonzalez
RF Jason Heyward
LF Justin Upton
1B Freddie Freeman
C Brian McCann
3B Chris Johnson
2B Dan Uggla
CF B.J. Upton
SS Andrelton Simmons
RHP Julio Teheran
HP Joe West (cc)
1B Sam Holbrook
2B Adam Hamari
3B Rob Drake
7:07 p.m. — We are underway. Gio Gonzalez starts off Jason Heyward with a fastball, which Heyward fouls off for strike one.
7:14 p.m. — And Gio cruises through the top of the first on 12 pitches (nine strikes), despite a brief interruption when Heyward had to be looked at by a trainer after only two pitches. Not sure what exactly happened, but Heyward appeared to perhaps have done something to his neck. He stayed in and popped out to short, but then he didn't take the field for the bottom of the first. Justin Upton has shifted to right field, with Evan Gattis taking over in left field.
7:28 p.m. — So much for that new-look lineup paying dividends. Bryce Harper struck out and Ryan Zimmerman flied out on a 2-0 pitch. Which stung more after Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche each drew two-out walks. Ian Desmond then stranded both with a grounder to short. So the Nats are 0-for-1 with runners in scoring position. Scoreless after one.
7:42 p.m. — Two innings in the books, and we're still waiting for the first hit of this game. By either team.
7:49 p.m. — So of course the first hit of this game is a double off the bat of Julio Teheran. Of course. Otherwise, Gio continues to deal. He's through three scoreless innings with three strikeouts, including some devastating curveballs to B.J. Upton and Andrelton Simmons in the top of the third.
7:58 p.m. — Bryce Harper to the rescue. He absolutely crushed a first-pitch fastball from Teheran over the center-field fence in the bottom of the third. That's Harper's 17th homer of the season, and it gives the Nats a 1-0 lead on their only hit of the game so far.
8:16 p.m. — Some more solid contact from the Nats in the fourth, but they didn't have anything to show for it. Ramos crushed a ball to center field, just not deep enough. Span also lined a ball to center, but it was caught to end the inning. Still 1-0 after four.
8:30 p.m. — And the Braves rally to take the lead in the top of the fifth. With two on and two out, Evan Gattis (who replaced Heyward after the latter departed the game with a strained neck) poked an opposite-field, 2-run single to right. Gonzalez gave up another hit after that, putting himself in more of a jam. He got out of it, but after a dominant first trip through the Atlanta lineup, he's struggled the second and third times around. The Nats now trail 2-1 heading to the bottom of the fifth.
8:41 p.m. — Well, we just had some excitement in the bottom of the fifth. To say the least. With a man on second and one out, Harper stepped to the plate for the first time since his towering homer in the bottom of the third. And Teheran's very first pitch plunked Harper in the hip, prompting Bryce to take a couple of steps toward the mound and say something at the right-hander. Which prompted both benches and bullpens to empty. Order was quickly restored, and there were no actual punches or shoving, but the incident certainly fired everyone up. Obviously the Braves thought Harper watched his home run a bit too much. Honestly, I don't think his reaction was any worse than just about anyone else who homers these days. We'll see what, if anything, comes out of this. It's still 2-1 Braves, by the way, after five. The Nats are 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position.
9:00 p.m. — Things have definitely settled down now (unless you're talking about the Braves and Nats' official Twitter accounts, which are showing some real maturity in going after each other right now). The Nationals still can't push across another run and still trail 2-1 as we head to the seventh.
9:07 p.m. — Gio gets through the seventh, having kept the Braves to just those two runs. Now it's up to the Nats lineup to do something. They'll get their hacks against the Atlanta bullpen now, with Luis Avilan entering for the bottom of the seventh. Harper is due up third.
9:25 p.m. — A golden opportunity for the Nats in the bottom of the seventh, after Chris Johnson's error put runners on first and second with two out. Werth came up in a big spot, but Luis Avilan walked him on five pitches, loading the bases for LaRoche. You have to think the Braves preferred that matchup. And rightfully so, because LaRoche grounded a 2-0 pitch to first base to end the inning and leave the Nats 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position tonight. They still trail 2-1.
9:31 p.m. — Ian Krol gets through the top of the eighth, with some help from a 4-6-3 double play in which Justin Upton went in really hard at second base, knocking Desmond over. No harm, though.
9:41 p.m. — Nothing doing in the eighth. Jordan Walden strikes out the side, keeping this a 2-1 game entering the ninth. We will, however, get a Bryce Harper/Craig Kimbrel showdown in the bottom of the inning.
9:51 p.m. — Here we go. It's Rendon, a pinch-hitter (Chad Tracy) and Harper in the bottom of the ninth against Kimbrel.
10:00 p.m. — And that's your ballgame. Kimbrel finishes it off, the Nats lose 2-1, their second-straight 1-run loss to the Braves. They're 5 games under .500 and now a staggering 14 1/2 games out of first place.