Sunday, September 16, 2012

Instant analysis: Braves 5, Nats 1

US Presswire photo
Gio Gonzalez had to gut his way through five-plus innings.
Game in a nutshell: The Nationals entered the weekend hoping to deliver a knockout punch to the Braves but knowing they'd still find themselves in great shape if they could just win one of three games. After dropping the first two by one run a piece, they suddenly found themselves in a must-win situation on Sunday Night Baseball. They couldn't get the job done. Gio Gonzalez labored his way through five-plus innings and departed without a chance to earn his 20th win. The previously red-hot lineup was again thwarted by Atlanta's pitching staff, starting with left-hander Mike Minor. And the Nats' bullpen and defense betrayed them late, allowed three insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh despite the Braves recording only one hit in the inning. All of a sudden, their 8 1/2-game lead is down to 5 1/2. With only 16 games to play, they're still in a highly advantageous position. But the division title won't come so easy anymore. And should these two teams meet again in October, the Braves will feel plenty confident about their chances to win a head-to-head series.

Hitting lowlight: They didn't give themselves many opportunities, but they squandered what few they had. Never was that more apparent than in the top of the fourth, when with two on and one out, Danny Espinosa stepped to the plate and grounded into a 6-4-3 double play on the first pitch he saw from Minor. That actually proved to be one of Espinosa's more productive at-bats of the series, if only because he made contact. After making a quick, cross-country trip to Arizona for his grandmother's funeral on Thursday, he looked completely out of sync at the plate this weekend. Espinosa's final batting line for the series: 0-for-11, nine strikeouts, one double play grounded into, one pop-out.

Pitching lowlight: With a chance to become the majors' first 20-game winner -- and to do it on a national stage -- Gonzalez labored from the start and couldn't recover until it was too late. He fell behind hitters, then watched as the Braves fouled off everything in sight. The left-hander went to a three-ball count on eight of the first 14 hitters he faced, walking three of them. He needed 83 pitches to complete three innings, and at that point it looked like he might not even complete the minimum five innings required to qualify for the win. Then a couple of 1-2-3 frames got Gonzalez back on track and left him at 103 pitches entering the sixth. Davey Johnson could have been satisfied with that but he decided to give his starter one more chance. That proved costly, because Gonzalez opened the sixth with a walk and a towering double, ultimately getting the hook after that.

Key stat: There have been 21 20-win seasons in Washington baseball history. Twelve of them were recorded by Walter Johnson between 1910-25.

Up next: After a late-night flight home, the Nationals will enjoy a day off before opening a three-game series against the wild-card-contending Dodgers. Right-handers Jordan Zimmermann and Aaron Harang are scheduled to start Tuesday's opener at 7:05 p.m.


Swift Eagle said...

Frustrating 3 games in Atl...Hopefully a wake-up call...A day off and some home games should help, not to mention a few opponents outside the NL East

NatsLady said...

Feel bad for Gio. No offense. Said before the game the offense needed to get going, but it didn't happen. Come home, boys. We love you.

Exposremains said...

I think it does show the advantage the wildcard will have starting at home in the NLDS. Could be the Braves.

Section 222 said...

We still won the season series against the Braves, and still lead by 5.5. All is not lost. But now we face another team that's fighting for a playoff spot. Time for the Nats to show what they are made of. Who will be the stopper? Znn, or Lannan? One of them needs to stop this slide.

Manassas Nats' Fan said...

I dont feel bad for Gio at all way to many balls.Walking Bourne was a terrible mistake.

but do agree that offense was pretty poor in Atlanta 19 for 97 .197

Fielding very suspect this series and hitting isnt occur fielding must be excellent.

Not sure who might get it but afraid Zim gave away gold glove last 2 weeks.

Get off my ticked list play like we expect next week.

Anonymous said...

Burnett has no business pitching these days. I hope Davey is just testing him because he's a liability out there.

Manassas Nats' Fan said...

Garcia might make post season roster. Burnett working his way off.

last 11 appearances 24 baserunner in 8 innings.

Espi needs to get back to the way he was in August.

Manassas Nats' Fan said...

Davey seemed unconcerned as he surely must know Burnett's number last 10 games at that point but still briught him in.

Manassas Nats' Fan said...

Well i will try to sleep but always have trouble sleeping after a loss. Players have advantage there as I cant image they have as much trouble sleeping as me.

Been lucky I have slept better this season 2009 and 2010 many sleepness nights.

peric said...

Burnett still looks injured to me. If he doesn't make the playoff roster that will be why not because Garcia or anyone one else "beat him out". He is looking a lot like he did last season which was pretty catastrophic at times.

This is playoff ball. And the Nats definitely do not look ready. A lot of that has to do with the young players dealing with new levels of pressure. Pitchers suddenly realizing they will be pitching into October and won't get shutdown at the end of September.

Its all a part of the learning experience.

The Real Feel Wood. Accept no substitutes. said...

Things that do not bode well heading toward the playoffs:

o Four straight losses to the Braves, dating back to the day where they honored Chipper before the game

o Consistently bad performance in high profile national TV games (have they won even one of these?)

o Of all teams that will likely be in the playoffs, the Nats will be the youngest with the fewest players having pennant race/postseason experience. Merely having a grizzled manager who's been there before may not be enough.

I have the uneasy feeling that most of the money I laid down for my postseason strip will instead be going to pay for my 2013 season tickets. Ah well. At least the "who will pay for late night Metro?" question will be moot.

NatsFanJim said...

Davey Johnson committed the Manager's Mortal Sin tonight: he froze at the switch.

Davey brings in an ineffective Burnett who implodes again. Does he warm anyone up? Nope.

Storen sits but Burnett pitches? Does that make sense? Up comes Uggla: and we know Davey is obsessed with Righty Lefty matchups. Is a righty warm in the bullpen? Nope. In fact, no one is up in the bullpen.

Davey froze. He is too old to manage. Davey should be retired after this year.

DJB said...

Very bad feeling here. It has always been about the lack of bats. Great starting pitching helped out early in the season, but shutting down Strasburg seems to have added pressure. The bullpen is weak. We could be out of the lead in NL East by the time this is all said and done. If so, and we collapse in WC, Rizzo should be on the hot seat. I have never been a fan of Zimmerman. Bryce needs better lineup protection to develop as a hitter. Very few good "contact" swings in the lineup. The hitters are not built for October baseball.

NatsFanJim said...

So many of the Nats weaknesss are coming out in these pre-playoff type of games.

I am solaced by remembering what Rizzo said all along: 2013 is the year of the Nats -- 2012 saw the party start early. Rizzo knows what's going on and is not under disillusions.

NatsFanJim said...

Storen sat while Burnett pitched -- that's all I need to know about Dave Johnson.

This game has exposed him. Very bad for him.

NatsFanJim said...

2012 Was all gravy for me as a lifelong Nats and Senators fan.

We have too many holes to make far this year -- waaaay to many holes.

Next year will be our year!

So, it's all good.

NatsFanJim said...

No other comments but "We Love you Nats" from you, Natslady?? No insults to lob at us for telling the truth about the Holes in the nats?

peric said...

Davey is still Davey. He is having dress rehearsals for the playoff roster. H did the same earlier in the season and it paid off in spades.

Let Davey do his thing. He knows best how to manage the players. As for saying he wants LaRoche back. That all depends on how Rendon does in the AFL. If he looks ready Rizzo and Davey will put him at third at some point next season moving Zim to first base.

DJB said...

How is next year going to be better? Zimmerman is signed to a long-term contract. I suppose LaRoche will opt out. We may be able to trade Morse to an AL team, where he belongs. This doesn't solve the problems. All the NL East teams figured out how to pitch the Nats. I see no easily reproducible swings in the lineup. Pitching is set. If anything, 2013 will be worse. Rizzo will be fired, sooner or later.

NatsFanJim said...

Can't imagine Zimmerman playing first well. I know that all he could play -- we'll see.

Signing him to the long term deal was not smart.

NatsFanJim said...

wow, DJB, you may be right. But I do think Zimmerman won't finish next year at third -- Morse may move to first where he is quite good. Desi will be better, Rendon will do well at 3b, we need a catcher that hits for real, starters are good, the bullpen, minus Burnett will be better -- Garcia is awesome -- harper will be much better, Werth will be Werth, Moore might get moved to acquire a hitter with better defensive skills, Lombo might play more at 2b, I dont know what you do with Espi -- bench him or trade him. We should be better.

DJB said...

Rendon is injury prone, but it could work out in a couple of years. Zimmerman is not good enough of a hitter to play first on a playoff team. Zimmerman's contract is the albatross. Look, who would you give up for a Morse or Espinoza? They're strike out machines with low OBP. The better play would have been to trade Zimmerman for a couple of good bats with high but not exceptional OBP, and make a play for Wright. But the biggest mistake was to not go hard after Pujols. Here's my issue with Strasburg: did he really want to pitch? If so, why does he still have Boras? If not, then he does not have the competitive fire. Big, big problems.

Secret wasian man said...

Legion of doom member 5 is back. C'mon guys. So we stunk this weekend. We got a mediocre dodgers team and a cant win on the road team, brewers coming in. Should be fine. Now drop the first couple to the dodgers and yeah I'll jump with ya.

timeless46 said...

this board is ridiculous.

peric said...

I see no easily reproducible swings in the lineup. Pitching is set. If anything, 2013 will be worse. Rizzo will be fired, sooner or later.

The KEY STAT? The Nats are the youngest team entering the playoffs. What does that tell you?

OF COURSE THEY WILL BE BETTER NEXT YEAR? Sheesh what is wrong with you people? AND ESPECIALLY HARPER who is the youngest position player. They will bring up Rendon adding another VERY YOUNG, yet very solid bat to the lineup.

Evidence? Desmond improved. Bernadina improved. Lombardozzi improved. Moore improved.

Espinosa will improve and if he can avoid injuries Zimmerman will produce like the All Star that he is.

That's the plan Stan.

peric said...

Rendon is injury prone, but it could work out in a couple of years.

So, is Zimmerman, so is Morse, so is Werth, so is La Roche. The difference is Rendon is younger and is a top 10 prospect as was Harper. And Harper was all about the bat. Rendon also comes with a gold glove caliber glove at third.

OF COURSE he is going to be a third base! Starting at some point next season.

Unknown said...

Come home, boys. But when you do, we want you to win. Washington loves a winner -- and only a winner.

natsfan1a said...
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