|Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER|
But it's certainly worth watching right from the get-go tonight when Jordan Zimmermann takes the mound, just in case the right-hander has something up his sleeve. He'll be seeking his 14th win, which would be tops in the NL, and more importantly he'll be seeking to get the Nationals a much-needed win over an Atlanta club that has now won nine of 12 head-to-head encounters this season.
Kris Medlen gets the ball for the Braves, who surely are out for blood themselves, trying to sweep this series, win their 13th straight and expand their division lead to a staggering 15 1/2 games.
Updates to come...
ATLANTA BRAVES at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500), XM 184
Weather: Chance of storms, 81 degrees, Wind 8 mph out to LF
CF Denard Span
3B Ryan Zimmerman
LF Bryce Harper
RF Jayson Werth
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
2B Anthony Rendon
C Wilson Ramos
RHP Jordan Zimmermann
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 Kris Medlen
HP Sam Holbrook
1B Adam Hamari
2B Rob Drake
3B Joe West (cc)
7:06 p.m. — And we're underway with a fastball outside to Jason Heyward. Obviously no retaliation there.
7:18 p.m. — And three batters into this game, the Nats already trail 1-0. Heyward led off with a double to left-center, then scored shortly thereafter when Freddie Freeman lined an RBI single to center. That was, incredibly, Freeman's eighth hit in his last 13 at-bats with runners in scoring position. For comparison's sake, the Nats as a team have seven total hits with RISP over their last seven games.
7:25 p.m. — Kris Medlen, meanwhile, set the Nats down in order in the bottom of the first, striking out both Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper. This one isn't exactly off to a rousing start.
7:42 p.m. — Make it six up, six down for Medlen, who is cruising along. He's got three strikeouts, including Ian Desmond looking to end the second, the Nats still down 1-0.
7:49 p.m. — Zimmermann has surrendered a hit to the leadoff man in each of his three innings so far, but he's escaped allowing only the one run so far. He's at 57 pitches, which is a pretty high total at this point.
8:14 p.m. — Eighty-eight pitches through four innings is an even higher total. That's where Zimmermann now stands during what has been a laborious outing, to say the least. He gave up another run in the fourth after loading the bases with nobody out and needing a great catch from Denard Span on Medlen's drive to deep left-center. Yes, Medlen. Zimmermann loaded the bases again with two outs, this time for Freeman, the last guy you'd want to face in that situation. He did manage to strike the Braves' No. 3 hitter out to end the inning, but he's not long for this game. Tanner Roark is already warming in the pen, primed to make his MLB debut. 2-0 Braves, middle of the fourth.
8:26 p.m. — Whoa, this game is suddenly tied. For that, you can thank Harper, who drew a two-out walk in the bottom of the fourth. And you absolutely can thank Werth, who clobbered a 2-run homer to right-center, his 16th of the year, to continue his absolute tear at the plate. And now a double whoa: Zimmermann is yanked after four innings and 88 pitches. Roark in to make his debut in a 2-2 game in the fifth, with the heart of the Braves' lineup due up. I don't know if anything is physically wrong with Zimmermann. But his recent performance, and Davey's quick hook tonight, certainly suggest there could be something wrong with him. Stay tuned. It's 2-2 after four.
8:45 p.m. — Tanner Roark, ladies and gentlemen! Two scoreless innings for the rookie right-hander, including a nifty diving grab of Medlen's popped-up bunt, starting a double play to end the top of the sixth. This remains a 2-2 game.
9:06 p.m. — It's not 2-2 anymore. Justin Upton demolished a pitch from Fernando Abad into the left-field bullpen, putting the Braves back on top. He took his time rounding the bases, too, not a surprise. Abad, meanwhile, has now seen 10 runs cross the plate while he's been on the mound over his last 10 appearances: five that he actually let score, plus five more inherited runners. Not good. It's 3-2 Braves at the stretch. The Nats still have one hit: Werth's homer.
9:20 p.m. — And this game is re-tied. Werth and LaRoche each delivered one-out singles in the bottom of the seventh, giving the Nats three for the night. LaRoche then helped break up a double play at second base, with Desmond charging hard out of the box to beat Dan Uggla's throw to first and bring home the tying run. It's 3-3 heading to the eighth.
9:42 p.m. — And now the Nats trail by 3 runs as it all falls apart in the top of the eighth. Ryan Mattheus and Ian Krol combined to give up three runs on three hits and two walks, capped by Heyward's RBI single and Upton's two-run double. Here's a valid question for Davey Johnson postgame: Why, in a tie game in the eighth, was a fresh Tyler Clippard not considered out of the bullpen? I'm not sure what the rationale there would be. Regardless, it's now 6-3 Braves and the Nats are down to their last six outs.
9:55 p.m. — And now they're three outs away, still trailing by three, with Craig Kimbrel looming in the ninth.
10:27 p.m. — It's over. The game, I mean. You all can decide if the season is as well. Tonight's final: 6-3. The Nats loaded the bases in the ninth but couldn't convert. The Nats get swept in the series. They're 0-6 against the Braves at home this season. They're 3-10 overall against Atlanta. They trail the NL East by 15 1/2 games. They trail the NL Wild Card by 9 games.