What to Watch for: 9.17.13 – Game Two

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Atlanta Braves (89-61) vs. Washington Nationals (80-70)

RHP Freddy Garcia (1-1, 1.32) vs. RHP Tanner Roark (6-0, 1.30)

(Note: Garcia is 4-6, 4.86 overall on the year)

In Game One of today’s twin bill, the Nationals jumped out to an early lead, only to watch Atlanta storm back to take a 5-3 advantage heading into the bottom of the ninth. Winless in six tries at home against the Braves this season, the Nationals put themselves in a position where they needed at least two runs to keep the game alive. Instead, they got three, becoming the first team in 225 tries to do as much damage against Braves closer Craig Kimbrel.

Adam LaRoche led off with a walk and Wilson Ramos followed by grinding out an eight-pitch at-bat, fighting back from 0-2 to drive a ball up the middle that second baseman Elliot Johnson got a glove to, but could not flip accurately to second base for the force. Jeff Kobernus ran for Ramos at first and Anthony Rendon drew another walk to load the bases with no outs for pinch-hitter Chad Tracy. The left-handed hitter pulled a hard chopper to first base, allowing LaRoche to score and cut the lead to one, the runners moving up to second and third.

Enter, Denard Span.

The center fielder had already extended his hitting streak to a career-high 27 games earlier in the afternoon, matching the longest streak in baseball this season. After taking ball one, he hit a grounder back up the middle, where the Braves defense was not playing in – playing not to lose, rather than to win. While the tying run would have scored on the play regardless, shortstop Andrelton Simmons pulled up on the ball, as it skipped through his legs untouched. Rendon motored around third to score behind Kobernus, and the Nationals snagged an enormous, 6-5 victory.

“I knew when I hit the ball, the game was tied for sure,” said Span after the raucous celebration on the Nationals Park infield. “For us to be able to get a win like that against their closer, and on our home field, it just felt really good.”

The win improved Washington’s record to 80-70, putting the Nats 10 games above .500 for the first time all season. It also staved off Atlanta’s chance to clinch the division title for another day, the NL East Magic Number remaining at four and the Reds second Wild Card elimination number still at eight.

Right-hander Tanner Roark will take the hill against veteran Freddy Garcia in the nightcap of the doubleheader.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Jayson Werth RF

4. Bryce Harper LF

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Adam LaRoche  1B

7. Steve Lombardozzi 2B

8. Jhonatan Solano C

9. Tanner Roark RHP

HEAR ME, ROARK

Tanner Roark has been brilliant since his call up from Triple-A Syracuse, posting a 6-0 record in 11 appearances. Roark has won each of his first two starts, allowing two earned runs in 12.0 innings of work. He sports a 1.30 ERA overall (5 ER/34.2 IP) with 26 strikeouts and just eight walks.

WE’RE GOING STREAKING

Denard Span extended his career-best hitting streak to 27 straight games in Game One, matching Colorado’s Michael Cuddyer for the longest in Major League Baseball this year

Meanwhile, Wilson Ramos will see his stretch of consecutive starts behind the plate come to an end a 24 games with Jhonatan Solano in at catcher in Game Two. The streak is two games longer than the next closest in baseball this season (Yadier Molina, 22).

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