Archive for the ‘atlanta braves’ Category

Nats Stun The Braves: Twice

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

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The Washington Nationals have made the improbable now possible, stunning the Atlanta Braves in a split doubleheader on Tuesday, winning a come-from-behind first game in the bottom of the 9th inning, 6-5, then coming back to tame Atlanta 4-0 in the nightcap. The twin wins kept Washington in the hunt for the last Wild Card slot in the National League.

The Nationals seemed headed for defeat in the first game of the twin bill, trailing Atlanta by a score of 5-3 going into the bottom of the 9th inning. But the Nationals scored three runs on a walk to Adam LaRoche, a Wilson Ramos infield single, an Anthony Rendon walk, a fielder’s choice that scored LaRoche and a walk-off error from the usually sure-handed Andrelton Simmons.

The Simmons error came off the bat of Washington’s Denard Span, capping a three run rally that sparked a mass celebration by the Nationals. The rally marked a day in which the team and fans paid homage to those who had died at the nearby Navy Yard at the hands of a lone gunman on Monday. The Nats wore emblematic Navy hats as a tribute prior to the game.

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Atlanta had trailed 3-0 in the game, but a furious comeback from the Braves in the 8th inning gave Atlanta a one run lead, which they expanded by a run in the 9th inning. The 8th inning comeback victimized sure-armed reliever Tyler Clippard, who gave up a walk to Freedie Freeman, following by an Evan Gattis home run — his 20th of the year.

“He felt terrible,” Nationals starter Dan Haren said of Clippard following the victory. “He was yelling for 15 minutes straight, screaming in the locker room. How many times has the guy picked us up this year in huge games? Has so many holds. The guy pitches six out of seven days. The guy has been money all year.”

But Clippard’s frustration couldn’t match that felt by Atlanta fireballer Craig Kimbrel, arguably the most effective closer in the National League in 2013. Kimbrel had converted 37 straight save opportunities before Tuesday, but couldn’t survive the Simmons’ error.

“Any time I go out there and don’t do my job, it’s a tough one to swallow, because my job is to go out there and solidify what everybody else has done the entire game,” Kimbrel said following his blown save. “Everybody worked their butts off all game long. We battled back and took a lead.”

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RIP: RISP

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

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The Braves describe it as “pitching out of trouble,” while the Nationals call it “an inability to drive in runners in scoring position.” But no matter what your view, or how you describe it, there’s little question the Nationals reverted to form on Sunday afternoon, outhitting Atlanta but falling to the Braves 2-1 at Turner Field.

The Nationals had a chance to score against Braves starter Julio Teheran in each of the first three innings on Sunday, but couldn’t push a run home. In the end, and despite a much-need solid performance from Gio Gonzalez, that is what turned out to be the difference: the Nationals were 1-13 with runners in scoring position.

Washington’s biggest opportunity came in the 7th inning, when reliever Scott Downs gave up a lead-off single to Denard Span. After a ground out (with Span out at second on a fielders’ choice and Anthony Rendon at first), Downs walked Bryce Harper, bringing Jayson Werth to the plate.

With a golden opportunity to put runs on the board, Werth singled to center, scoring Rendon. But the Nationals couldn’t tack on any more. During the next at bat, the Nationals ran and whiffed themselves out of the rally on a strike-em-out throw-em-out double play that had first sacker Adam LaRoche walking away from home plate shaking his head.

The Nationals needed a strong outing from Gonzalez, particularly after going deep into their bullpen to salvage Saturday night’s fifteen inning marathon. Gonzalez came through: he pitched seven complete innings of five hit baseball, while striking out nine.

In fact, Gonzalez pitched much better than Atlanta starter Teheran, who left in the sixth inning — leaving the Nationals to relievers Downs, David Carpenter, Jerome Walden and closer Craig Kimbrel. In all, Washington sprayed eight hits against the covey of Braves’ pitchers, including a 3-5 afternoon from Denard Span and a 2-4 outing from Bryce Harper.

So there it is: Washington outhit Atlanta and outpitched them. Gonzalez was brilliant and the seemingly reincarnated Drew Storen (who pitched another scoreless inning) kept a tough hitting team in check. But in the end, it just wasn’t enough. The Nationals now head on to Chicago, where they will face the revived and rebuilding Cubs in a four game set.

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Photos: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

 

 

“Golly, What A Battle” — Nats Triumph In 15

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

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“That’s a real body blow for the Nationals,” MASN commenter F.P. Santagelo said after Justin Upton’s home run off of Nats’ closer Rafael Soriano sailed into the seats on Saturday night. And he added: “Again.” The Upton home run tied the game at seven runs apiece, in what should have been a clear Nationals’ win.

But instead of a victory, the Braves and Nats entered an extra inning marathon that saw each team use nearly everyone on their roster — and only ended in the bottom of the 15th, with Dan Haren shutting down the Braves after Adam LaRoche gave the Nationals a one run lead on his 18th home run of the year. “Golly, what a battle,” LaRoche said.

The Nationals fifteen inning win was a battle, for sure, but it was also an epic narrative — with enough story lines to fill a thick novel. It began with starter Stephen Strasburg’s retaliation (and subsequent ejection) against Atlanta’s Upton for the fact that Bryce Harper had been hit three times by Braves’ pitchers, and it ended when Washington starter Haren pitched for the first time in his career as a closer.

In between, the Nationals accumulated seventeen hits (including home runs from Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche), used seven relievers, and lofted a lone home run against Atlanta starter Kris Medlin, who’d been slotted by the Braves as their starter next Tuesday.

“Nothing comes easy against these guys, period,” LaRoche said following the exhausting victory. “We had some games where we had it put away, we have it in the books and they find a way to come back. We grind it out, and it was a full-team effort. We used everybody we had.”

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Ironically, the fifteen inning marathon marked Stephen Strasburg’s shortest outing of the year, though for good reason. Everyone with any rooting interest knew that Strasburg would throw at an Atlanta hitter: and he did, plunking Justin Upton in the left hip on a fastball in the first inning.

The Strasburg HBP came after Atlanta’s Jason Heyward lofted a long home run into the left center field stands on Atlanta’s first at bat of the game. But Strasburg wasn’t done. He threw inside and then behind Andrelton Simmons after walking Jordan Schafer in the top of the second, and was immediately ejected by umpire Marvin Hudson.

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Upton Downs The Nats

Saturday, August 17th, 2013

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Justin Upton has been a constant menace for the Washington Nationals, both when he was an Arizona Diamondback, and now that he is a part of the N.L. East leading Atlanta Braves. Upton was a menace again on Friday night, hitting a game winning home run against Ian Krol to give the Braves a ten inning 3-2 win.

“There’s a lot of baseball to be played,” Upton told reporters in the Atlanta clubhouse after his walk-off. “Our lead is pretty big right now, but crazier things have happened in baseball. You’ve got to go out and win as many games as you can.” Upton is 10-16 in his last four games against Washington.

The Upton home run came after Washington had tied the game at two in the eighth inning on a Jayson Werth single that scored Ryan Zimmerman. The single run rally gave hope to Washington that they could defeat the division leaders, despite trailing in the season series — having won only three games in thirteen outings.

“It’s not easy losing, that’s for sure,” Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth reflected, after the tough extra inning loss. “It’s been kind of the story of the year so far. We’re pretty good enough to lose.”

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The Washington loss squandered another solid outing from rookie righty Taylor Jordan, who scattered seven hits over six complete innings of work. “I thought I did well,” Jordan said of his outing. “I got a lot of weak ground balls, and they really didn’t hit anything too hard off me. So that’s what I go off of, how hard they hit me. I think I did pretty well.”

Taylor was not overwhelming, but he kept the Nationals in the ballgame, pitching past three Washington errors — which included a third inning throwing error from Anthony Rendon that gave Atlanta their second run and a 2-0 lead. Washington had three errors in the game.

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Why The Nationals Need To Hire Matt Williams

Sunday, August 11th, 2013

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The Nationals rally past the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday night at Nationals Park infused the Anacostia Nine with a new sense that somehow (maybe), the one-game-at-a-time philosophy of the ballclub could somehow vault them back into contention — and into the post season.

That seems improbable. St Louis is two games up on the Reds in the Wild Card standings and sixteen games over .500. The Redlegs, meanwhile, are 4.5 games up on the Arizona Diamondbacks for the last Wild Card slot, with the D-Backs (pretty typically) playing like a deflated balloon.

Maybe it would be better for the Nationals to set their sights on Atlanta, hoping that the Braves will swoon in the final two months, allowing the Nats to sprint into October. But just how likely is that? It’s not: the Braves have just completed a fourteen game winning streak (they lost on Saturday, 1-0 against the no account Miami Marlins), and at 25 games over .500 their collapse would have to be among the most monumental in baseball history.

So here it is, as plain as your 30-year-old step sister: the Pittsburgh Pirates are the best team in baseball (you might want to read that out loud, just to get the flavor of it), and the Braves are running away in the National League East. I would rather slam my fingers with a hammer than see the Braves in the World Series, but there you have it.

It’s no wonder, then, that Washington’s baseball pundits are chewing over the lost 2013 season, the most important assessments all coming in the last week. Not surprisingly, these postmortems have coincided with speculation about who will take over for manager Davey Johnson, a sure sign that the one-game-at-a-time philosophy is no more than a verbal conceit.

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“They Outplayed Us” — Braves Sweep The Nationals

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

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The Nationals had an opportunity to end the Braves winning streak on Wednesday night, but the bullpen couldn’t keep Atlanta off the board in the eighth inning, and the Aarons went on to win the game and sweep the three game series against Washington by a score of 6-3.

“You just keep battling. Just one game can turn you around and get some momentum going,” Nationals’ manager Davey Johnson said after the disheartening loss. “Things can change quick. They outplayed us, plain and simple.”

The Nationals set themselves up perfectly to gain ground against Atlanta, sending Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzelez and Jordan Zimmermann to the mound in successive games, but Strasburg and Gonzalez suffered from a lack of hitting support, while Zimmermann lasted only four innings.

“Every inning, the leadoff guy seemed like he was on,” Zimmermann said of his no-decision outing on Wednesday night. “Like I said, I had good stuff. I just fell behind or let them back in the count when I had them 0-2.”

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The Braves notched fifteen hits against the home towners in their Wednesday win, seven of them coming off of Zimmermann. But Washington’s starter at least limited Atlanta’s damage, which wasn’t true for the bullpen.

While newbie Tanner Roark proved effective, Fernando Abad, Ryan Mattheus and Ian Krol gave up five hits and three runs in the crucial seventh and eighth innings. Atlanta hitting feasted off the Washington bullpen: Justin Upton homered in the top of the 7th (his 21st), while Jason Heyward and Upton (again) victimized Washington in the 8th.

“This was a big series,” Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “We pushed the lead to three more games up on them. We came in here and we let them know we’re here to stay. They’re going to come back to our place next week and they’re going to be looking for payback. We’ve got to be ready for them.”

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Harper Homer Is The Lone Run, Braves Win Again

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

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Washington Nationals fans have to be among the most loyal in baseball. On Tuesday night at Nationals Park, all 30,875 of them remained on their feet throughout the 9th inning, clamoring for a Washington victory against the Nats N.L. East rival Atlanta Braves.

Sadly, the final score left them disappointed: the Nationals scored a lone run off the bat of Bryce Harper (his 17th), and Washington suffered a 2-1 loss to the Braves. It was the Braves twelfth win in a row and left the Nationals 14.5 games out of first place in the division and five games under .500.

Once again Nationals’ fans looked on as one of their team’s starters provided a stellar outing, but without backing from a team that remains next-to-last in hitting in the N.L. Gio Gonzalez, fighting back after a bad outing against the Tigers, threw seven complete innings while giving up only six hits.

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The Harper home run came in the bottom of the 3rd inning, providing Washington with its sole highlight. But when Harper came to the plate in the bottom of the 5th, Braves’ starter Julio Teheran plunked him with a 94 mph fastball, to which the young left fielder took issue.

The confrontation that followed, which included a twitter war-of-words, showed just how testy the Washington-Atlanta rivalry has become. Harper barked at Teheran and both benches came onto the field, but a full donnybrook was averted. Harper shrugged off the Teheran HBP.

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