|Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER|
The Nats come to town having come THISCLOSE to a six-game winning streak at home, if not for Rafael Soriano's blown save yesterday evening. They face a much stiffer challenge this weekend, facing those powerhouse Braves, who have won 17 of their last 19 and opened up a commanding, 14 1/2-game lead in the NL East.
Speaking of Soriano, odds are he won't be available to pitch tonight after appearing in three straight games (and nearly suffering two straight blown saves). Tyler Clippard also has appeared the last three days, which could leave the recently recalled Drew Storen as Davey Johnson's closer tonight should the situation present itself.
First things first: The Nationals need a good start from Taylor Jordan, who could be making his final outing of the year before his team-imposed shutdown, and they need to score some runs off Atlanta rookie left-hander Alex Wood, before they can contemplate who is going to close tonight.
Updates to come, so please check back...
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at ATLANTA BRAVES
Where: Turner Field
Gametime: 7:35 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500), XM 186
Weather: Cloudy, 68 degrees, Wind 10 mph in from CF
CF Denard Span
3B Ryan Zimmerman
LF Bryce Harper
RF Jayson Werth
SS Ian Desmond
1B Adam LaRoche
C Wilson Ramos
2B Anthony Rendon
RHP Taylor Jordan
RF Jason Heyward
LF Justin Upton
1B Freddie Freeman
C Brian McCann
3B Chris Johnson
CF Jordan Schafer
SS Andrelton Simmons
2B Paul Janish
LHP Alex Wood
HP Marty Foster
1B Marvin Hudson
2B Wally Bell
3B Jordan Baker
7:35 p.m. — And we're underway with a ball from Alex Wood to Denard Span. For what it's worth, Davey Johnson said earlier that Rafael Soriano and Tyler Clippard would be unavailable tonight only if they told him, and to that point neither had. So take it for what it's worth.
7:44 p.m. — Bryce Harper, who was booed resoundingly in his first plate appearance in Atlanta since the Julio Teheran dust-up, doubled into the left-field corner. But that's all the Nats were able to do against Wood in the top of the first.
7:54 p.m. — And the Braves jump on the Nats for an early run, thanks in large part to Wilson Ramos' throwing error on Jason Heyward's stolen base attempt. That allowed Heyward to advance to third with nobody out, and moments later Heyward scored on a 4-6-3 double play off the bat of Freddie Freeman. Taylor Jordan did a nice job to limit the damage there, but the Nats trail 1-0 early.
8:07 p.m. — Boy, Fredi Gonzalez probably wishes he had a challenge flag right about now. Chris Johnson appeared to dive back into first base safely on Jordan Schafer's lineout to third, but umpire Marvin Hudson called him out. Sadly (for Fredi, that is) there won't be any challenge system in place until next season, so the Nats happily took the double play. Still 1-0 Braves after two.
8:17 p.m. — The Nats are having all kinds of trouble picking up the ball out of Wood's hand so far tonight. He's got a funky throwing motion that hides the ball well, and it's paying off for him. He's got four strikeouts through three scoreless innings.
8:35 p.m. — Jordan nearly induced his third double play in three innings, but Rendon's throw on the turn sailed wide and that allowed another run to score. So it's 2-0 Braves after three, though Jordan isn't really to blame for that.
8:45 p.m. — Ooh, intrigue in the top of the fourth as Wood's first pitch drills Harper in the back. Before you get all worked up, though, it was a 77 mph breaking ball. No intent there. Harper got his revenge, though, going first to third on Werth's single to left-center. That proved significant, because it allowed him to score on Desmond's 6-4-3 double play, cutting the Braves' lead to 2-1 in the middle of the fourth.
9:03 p.m. — Just a brutal sequence by the top of the Nats lineup in the top of the fifth. They had runners on second and third with one out and the Braves infield playing back. But Span struck out on three pitches, failing to even put the ball in play. He has struck out three times now tonight. And then Zimmerman grounded out to second to end the inning. That leaves the Nats 0-for-6 tonight with runners in scoring position, three of those outs on K's and another on a double play. That's your season in a nutshell, folks. Still 2-1 Braves in the middle of the fifth.
9:10 p.m. — Three errors on the Nats infield in five innings. The most recent one was a tough hop for LaRoche, but it's an E nonetheless. Props to Jordan for escaping major damage. It remains 2-1 after five.
9:28 p.m. — All in all, a solid outing for Taylor Jordan, who is probably done after six innings of two-run ball. Neither run was earned. He's at 142 total innings for the season, so this could be it for him in 2013. Ross Ohlendorf tossed four innings in a rehab start at Potomac tonight and should be ready to come off the DL in five days.
9:37 p.m. — Nothing happening for the Nats at the plate tonight. Wood finishes his outing with nine strikeouts and zero walks. He's the fifth pitcher to put up that line against the Nats this joining, joining Cliff Lee, Matt Harvey, Roy Oswalt and Clayton Kershaw. So, yeah, three of the guys to do that are named Lee, Harvey and Oswalt. Too bad Ian Kennedy didn't do it, too. Still 2-1 at the stretch.
9:58 p.m. — Wow, some fireworks in the top of the eighth as Luis Avilan fires a first-pitch fastball into Bryce Harper's upper back. Harper was not pleased, neither was Davey Johnson. Plate umpire Marty Foster issued warnings to both benches, and Avilan departed to a standing ovation from the crowd. So how did the Nats respond: Werth delivered a two-out RBI single to right, tying this game 2-2 in the eighth.
10:07 p.m. — Nice job by Craig Stammen with two scoreless innings. We go to the ninth, it's still 2-2 and Craig Kimbrel enters to face LaRoche, Ramos and a pinch-hitter.
10:15 p.m. — The Nats got two hits off Kimbrel in the top of the ninth, but they couldn't get the go-ahead run home. So now here's Drew Storen in his return to the big leagues, pitching the bottom of the ninth of a tie game in Atlanta.
10:30 p.m. — Wow, quite a performance by Storen. He allowed a one-out single to Simmons but came up huge to strike out Evan Gattis (who had been 6-for-8 with four homers as a pinch-hitter!) on a nasty slider. Storen then got Gerald Laird to fly out, ending a 17-pitch, 13-strike inning and sending this one to extra innings, still tied 2-2.
10:40 p.m. — Harper (who nearly was hit by another pitch just now) showed some nice discipline in laying off a 3-2 slider from Scott Downs to draw a one-out walk in the 10th. Unfortunately, Werth grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning. Bottom of the 10th upcoming, with Ian Krol now in.
10:47 p.m. — And Justin Upton takes Krol deep to end this one. Nats lose 3-2 in 10.