Results tagged ‘ Atlanta Braves ’

Highlights from the Nationals Spring Training home opener

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by Amanda Comak

VIERA, Fla — The Washington Nationals topped the Atlanta Braves 16-15 in a wild Spring Training home opener — a game that featured 37 combined hits, six combined errors and 31 total runs.

You can catch up on all the game action here.

It was a beautiful day to open Space Coast Stadium for the Grapefruit League slate, and it started on a high note as the Nationals welcomed Sergeant First Class Melvin Morris to the field to throw out the first pitch.

On March 18, President Barack Obama will present Sgt. Morris with the U.S. military’s highest honor: the Medal of Honor. In 1961 Sergeant Morris was one of the first members of the Army’s elite corp, The Green Beret, and he volunteered twice for deployments during the Vietnam War.  While commanding a strike force on a mission near Chi Lang in South Vietnam, his special forces group came under attack and a fellow commander was killed.  Despite enemy fire, which struck Sgt. Morris three times, he returned to recover the body of his fallen comrade and to retrieve a strategic map which, in enemy hands, would have endangered the lives of his men.

During a recent Army review it was found that many war heroes had been passed over for the Medal of Honor at the time of their bravery because of long-held prejudices. Sgt. Morris is among 24 Army veterans for whom this injustice will soon be corrected. President Obama called Sgt. Morris personally to give him the good news.

The Nationals were honored to welcome Sgt. Morris, a Brevard County resident, and his family, including his grandson Javone, to throw out the first pitch.

“It’s a pretty special day here,” said Nationals Manager Matt Williams. “Local guy to the area. It was nice that the organization honored him and we were happy to be out there for it. You don’t get the chance to shake the hand of a Medal of Honor recipient every day. Pretty special day.”

Here are a few photos from the day:

Signature Moments of 2013: Quarterfinal #4

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With 86 wins in the books, the 2013 season had its share of lasting memories. We have seeded the top 10 in our book, and over the next few weeks we will be letting you vote in a bracket-style competition to determine the ultimate signature moment of the season. Check back every Monday, Wednesday and Friday through the World Series for a new poll and to see which moments advanced on to the next round.

SigMomentsBracket10-16

“IT AIN’T OVER…” | 9.17

Following the tragic events of September 16 at the nearby Navy Yard, the mood was somber as the Nationals took on the Atlanta Braves in game one of a split doubleheader the next day. Down two in the bottom of the ninth against the seemingly unbeatable Craig Kimbrel, the Nats rallied for three runs to win the game, scoring the go-ahead and winning runs on a grounder by Denard Span that snuck between the legs of Atlanta shortstop Andrelton Simmons.

BRYCE IS BACK | 7.1

Exactly three months after the Nationals 2013 campaign began, Washington came to bat in the bottom of the first with Bryce Harper hitting third in its lineup – his first game back after missing more than a month due to injury. Harper took ball one, then rocketed a solo home run to put the Nationals in front, just as he did in his first at-bat on Opening Day.

ItAintOver

Let It Rain

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The 2013 season is not yet over. But the dream of defending the National League East crown, of a repeat trip to the postseason has come to an end.

While the end always stings, it did not come as suddenly or unexpectedly as the end of the 2012 season. And while it may have technically ended at the hands of the Cardinals, there wasn’t much of a sense of any connection between the end of last year and the end of this year. It was simply happenstance that the Nationals should make their lone trip to St. Louis at the end of September, after staving off elimination for weeks, and that Cincinnati and Pittsburgh should each squeak out runs against inferior opponents just minutes earlier to create such a scenario.

The odds were stacked against Washington as early as April, when Atlanta built a division lead it would never relinquish. They grew longer with injuries to key cogs in the offense and the rotation, and with the way the National League shook out, a high-80s win total was simply not good enough to knock on October’s door this year.

Though Johnson will not be on the bench next season, he will continue to work with Rizzo to improve the ballclub.

Though Johnson will not be on the bench next season, he will continue to work with Rizzo to improve the ballclub.

“It’s tough,” said Davey Johnson after Monday night’s 4-3 defeat. “You put the uniform on to win, and we didn’t get it done.”

This will be Johnson’s last year in uniform on the bench for Washington, which surely adds to that emotion. But there is solace in knowing that he will be back in the front office next season, helping President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo as the club looks to improve in 2014 and beyond.

“I’m not worried about the organization,” he expressed. “The organization’s in great shape.”

Ian Desmond, who has been the first to stand up and face the media in the wake of any tough loss this season, concurred in his assessment.

“I couldn’t ask to be in a better place, with a better group of guys,” he said.

Even as the national media has portrayed Jayson Werth as the emotional leader of this club, and continued to focus on Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg as the name-brand stars, it was Desmond who stayed consistently, statistically great the past two seasons, no matter what happened around him.

Ian Desmond's consistency and leadership will only strengthen the Nationals moving forward.

Ian Desmond’s consistency and leadership will only strengthen the Nationals moving forward.

His final 2012 line looked like so: .292/.335/.511 with 60 extra-base hits, 21 stolen bases and a team-leading 5.0 fWAR.

With five regular season games remaining in 2013, he’s compiled a .285/.337/.463 line with 61 extra-base hits, 21 steals and a 5.1 fWAR, again best on the club.

“For me personally, I just play the game the way I know how to play the game,” he said Monday night. “I don’t turn the dial up. The dial’s already turned up.”

Desmond’s ability to stay healthy has helped him remain consistent in a year of turbulence. That quality is one that Harper, who remained in his full jersey, sitting at his locker well after the conclusion of the game, looks to draw from heading into the offseason.

“I’ve got to try to be in this lineup every night,” Harper said, looking ahead to next season, referencing time missed due to injury this year.

But before all attention turns to 2014, Washington can still make life tough on these Cardinals. With two more games in St. Louis, the Nationals can go a long way toward determining the pecking order in the NL Central, perhaps pushing the Cards into the one-game Wild Card.

“We’ve got an opportunity to rain on their parade a little,” said Desmond, well aware of the situation.

And so, with that, we’ll say the words that baseball people never dare to speak aloud.

Let it rain.

What to Watch for: 9.18.13

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Atlanta Braves (89-62) vs. Washington Nationals (81-70)

LHP Alex Wood (3-3, 3.45) vs. RHP Ross Ohlendorf (4-0, 3.15)

The Nationals completed an exciting doubleheader sweep over the Braves on Tuesday to cap an emotional day Tuesday in The District. Washington rallied for three runs off Craig Kimbrel for a 6-5, walk-off win in the matinee, while Tanner Roark tossed seven shutout innings in the 4-0 nightcap victory to become the first Nationals player (2005-present) to win his first seven decisions. Ross Ohlendorf steps to the hill tonight as Washington aims for its 11th win in 12 contests and a three-game sweep of its division rivals.

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. Wilson Ramos C

8. Anthony Rendon 2B

9. Ross Ohlendorf RHP

BEST BALL

Washington owns Major League Baseball’s best record dating to August 9 (27-10, .730). In that span, the Nationals lead the National League in runs scored (201) and run differential (+65). The Nationals have won eight of nine series since taking three of four games at Wrigley Field, August 19-22.

HOMER HAPPY

At the completion of play on September 1, when the Nationals departed for their most recent road trip, Ryan Zimmerman was tied for 38th in the National League with 15 home runs. In the 15 games since, Zimmerman has hit 10 long balls — including one to spur a three-run eighth inning in Tuesday’s nightcap — and is currently tied for sixth in the NL with a team-best 25 homers. Zimmerman’s 10 home runs this month are the most in MLB (ahead of Hunter Pence’s nine) and have established a Nationals record for the month of September.

SOME REST FOR THE WEARY

Wilson Ramos’ Nationals record and MLB season-high string of 24 consecutive starts behind the plate came to an end in Tuesday’s nightcap against the Braves. During the 24-game run, which began August 22 at Chicago, Ramos went 24-for-91 (.264) with a double, seven home runs and 24 RBI. Washington played .750 (18-6) ball during that stretch.

Improbabilities and Impossibilities

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by Noah Frank

“We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible.” – Vince Lombardi

It is not impossible for the Nationals to make it to the postseason this year. The strange twists and turns of this season have left them looking up a steep hill, at tall odds stacked heavily against them. And while not impossible, the chance of them crashing the party remains highly improbable. Which is to say that they will need a number of improbabilities to swing their way, in succession, to defy those odds.

They got off to a good start on Tuesday.

Facing the prospects of a crushing loss in the opening game of the twinbill against the Braves, the Nationals did something no team has done in Craig Kimbrel’s 225 career appearances, scoring the three runs they needed to erase a two-run deficit to walk off with a 6-5 win. The Baseball Reference win probability chart had the Nats at eight percent to win in such a scenario entering the bottom of the ninth.

Leverage

The comeback was made even more amazing, and the result even more unlikely than the probabilities suggest, considering that Washington had yet to score against the Atlanta closer his 10 prior appearances against them this season. He had converted 37 straight save opportunities, a string that was going to end as soon as the ball left Denard Span’s bat, as his one-out grounder was going to be deep enough to score the tying run. But as Andrelton Simmons – the highest-rated defensive shortstop in baseball – pulled his glove up, the ball skipping untouched through his legs, the Nationals found themselves celebrating an even more unbelievable victory.

Denard Span keyed another improbable Nationals victory.

Denard Span keyed another improbable Nationals victory in game one.

The long odds didn’t end in game one, though. After Tanner Roark, perhaps the unlikeliest figure in this late season charge, delivered seven scoreless frames in the nightcap, Washington clung to a 1-0 lead heading to the bottom of the eighth. The Braves turned to Jordan Walden, who had allowed just one run in eight prior appearances against the Nats, coming on a solo shot by Ryan Zimmerman. The Z-Man took an encore roundtripper to double the lead, then Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond and Adam LaRoche combined to plate two more runs as the Nationals put the game away.

Against the two relievers who had dominated them the most this season, the Nationals suddenly broke through for three runs apiece. Coming in, Walden and Kimbrel had combined to go 2-0 with a 0.50 ERA (1 ER/18.0 IP), four walks, 22 strikeouts and a perfect 7-for-7 in save chances in the season series. On Tuesday, they were 0-1 with a 22.50 ERA (5 ER/2.0 IP), with two walks, no strikeouts and a blown save.

While Washington has no realistic chance to catch Atlanta in the division, the two wins ensured the Braves could not clinch the NL East in Washington this week. Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Reds have continued to win in Houston, lowering the Nationals postseason chances to 3.3 percent, according to Baseball Prospectus, heading into play on Wednesday. However, the Pittsburgh Pirates have lost two straight, bringing them back into the picture as well. In order to tie the Reds or Pirates and force a one-game playoff to get to the Wild Card game, the Nationals would need to play out their remaining games with one of the following combinations from their opponents:

Improbabilities

While it seems unlikely that teams like Cincinnati or Pittsburgh, clubs which have played well all season, will collapse entirely, any of the top three combinations seem possible. Yes, it would require the Nationals to keep playing at the same rate they have over their last 12 games (in which they are 11-1) against stronger competition, including three games in St. Louis.

These are not probable outcomes. But, then again, after what happened on Tuesday at Nationals Park, we know that improbable does not equal impossible.

Highlights: 9.17.13

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9.17.13 Game One – Nationals 6, Braves 5

Stat of the Game: The Nationals became the first team to score three runs against Craig Kimbrel in his 225 career appearances.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Dan Haren twirled six strong innings of one-run ball and left with a 3-1 lead.

It Was Over When: Denard Span‘s grounder up the middle split the wickets on Andrelton Simmons to score the winning run.

9.17.13 Game Two – Nationals 4, Braves 0

Stat of the Game: Tanner Roark dominated once again, tossing seven scoreless frames en rout to his seventh win, lowering his ERA to 1.08.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Ryan Zimmerman blasted his 10th home run in his last 15 games, giving him 25 on the season for the fourth time in his career.

It Was Over When: Washington added three insurance runs in the ninth inning to put the game away.

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).

What to Watch for: 9.17.13 – Game One

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Atlanta Braves (89-60) vs. Washington Nationals (79-70)

LHP Mike Minor (13-7, 3.15) vs. RHP Dan Haren (9-13, 5.02)

After tying a season-high with 18 hits in an 11-2 victory over the Phillies on Sunday, the Nationals look to continue their hot hitting in the first game of today’s twin bill with the Braves. Dan Haren takes the mound for Washington, one start removed from claiming a 3-0 victory over the Mets in which he allowed just one hit and struck out eight in 6.0 innings.

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. Wilson Ramos C

8. Anthony Rendon 2B

9. Dan Haren RHP

BEST BALL

Washington owns Major League Baseball’s best record dating to August 9 (25-10, .714). In that span, the Nationals lead the National League in runs scored (191) and run differential (+60). The Nats have won seven of eight series since taking three of four games at Wrigley Field, August 19-22.

HOMER HAPPY

At the completion of play on September 1, when the Nationals departed for their most-recent road trip, Ryan Zimmerman was tied for 38th in the NL with 15 home runs. In the two weeks and 13 games later, Zimmerman has tallied nine long balls and is currently ranked eighth in the NL with a team-best 24 homers. Zimmerman’s nine September homers are tied with San Francisco’s Hunter Pence for the MLB lead. Wilson Ramos (six) ranks third on that same September list, while no other big leaguer has more than five.

STRINGING ‘EM TOGETHER

Denard Span has hit safely in a career-high 26 straight games at a .387 (43-for-111) clip with six walks, five doubles, two triples, two homers, 18 runs scored, eight RBI and five stolen bases. His streak is both the second longest in MLB this year (Colorado’s Michael Cuddyer, 27 games) and in the nine-year history of the Nationals (Ryan Zimmerman, 30-games, April 8-May 12, 2009). Meanwhile, Wilson Ramos has started a Nationals record and MLB season-high 23 consecutive games behind the plate. Ramos is batting .261 (23-for-88) with seven home runs and 24 RBI during his string of starts, which began on August 22 at Wrigley Field. Washington is playing .739 (17-6) ball during that stretch.

What to Watch for: 8.18.13

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Washington Nationals (60-62) vs. Atlanta Braves (75-48)

LHP Gio Gonzalez (7-5, 3.42) vs. RHP Julio Teheran (9-6, 3.08)

A little less than 13 hours after wrapping up a marathon 8-7, 15-inning win, the Nationals will send Gio Gonzalez to the mound in search of a series victory over the Braves. Sunday’s matchup will be Gonzalez’s fourth against Atlanta this season, including his third at Turner Field. The southpaw has stifled the Braves in his last two outings against them, allowing just three runs on nine hits in 14 innings, walking two and striking out 12.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Anthony Rendon 2B

3. Bryce Harper LF

4. Jayson Werth RF

5. Adam LaRoche 1B

6. Ian Desmond SS

7. Chad Tracy 3B

8. Kurt Suzuki C

9. Gio Gonzalez LHP

BULLISH ON THE ‘PEN

Following Stephen Strasburg’s early exit Saturday, the Nationals bullpen fired 14 innings, striking out a Major League record 19 Braves (1971-present). The combination of Tanner Roark, Drew Storen, Craig Stammen and Dan Haren, who earned his first-career save, pitched what amounted to a full game, tallying eye-popping numbers: 9.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 16 K. Meanwhile, rookie left-hander Ian Krol, following a tough loss the previous night, navigated the Nationals through the pressure-packed 10th and 11th innings without allowing a run.

MOORE, TYLER PLEASE

Tyler Moore was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse prior to Saturday night’s game, and went 2-for-4 with a run scored while playing eight innings of flawless defense at first base. During his recent stint with the Chiefs, Moore compiled a .367/.442/.664 slash line, blasting eight home runs and plating a whopping 38 RBI in 33 games. Moore was lifted in the ninth in favor of Adam LaRoche, and the move paid off – albeit six innings later – when LaRoche belted the game-deciding home run.

SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER

Some staggering numerical mementos from Washington’s 15-inning 8-7 win at Turner Field:

0 number of Braves hits with runners in scoring position in 15 innings

1 position players remaining on the bench for either team (Kurt Suzuki)

2 number of career 15th-inning homers hit by Adam LaRoche (also August 24, 2007 for Pittsburgh at Houston)

4 number of extra-inning games between the Braves and Nationals this season

10 minutes first pitch delayed by rain

18 combined number of pitchers to pitch in the game

19 strikeouts notched by Washington’s bullpen

35 number of wins, against just 12 losses, when the Nationals score last in a game

44 combined players used by both clubs

126 plate appearances in the game

319 career appearances for Dan Haren upon earning first career save

329 minutes passed during game’s duration

513 pitches in game (335 strikes)

1413 days since the Nationals last 15-inning game, a 2-1 win over the Braves on 10/4/09. Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman & Tyler Clippard (Nationals) and Adam LaRoche, Brian McCann, Rafael Soriano and Kris Medlen (Braves) also played in that contest.

Saturday Night Fever

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“I feel like we were just destined to win that game, some way, somehow.”

Those words came from Dan Haren, maybe the most unlikely of heroes from a game full of them, saturated with storylines from both dugouts.

Saturday night was supposed to be about Bryce Harper, about unwritten baseball rules, about the rising tension between the Nationals and the Braves as they battled through the dog days of summer. But amidst a bizarre game in which two of the best young pitchers in baseball each failed to escape the second inning, it became a story of a true team effort in which 21 of the 25 men on the Washington roster played a role. In the end, the Nationals prevailed after 15 innings and nearly five-and-a-half hours, by a final of 8-7.

Adam LaRoche provided the decisive blow with his team-leading 18th home run.

Adam LaRoche provided the decisive blow with his team-leading 18th home run.

While any 15-inning affair will naturally be referred to most commonly as a marathon, this division rivalry felt more like a long distance relay race, with one reliever handing the baton to the next, over and over again. In all, 18 different pitchers were used by the two clubs – nine each – including the starters, each club’s entire seven-man bullpen, and two more starters to close it out.

Along the way, Washington set a number of records. The 15 innings matched the longest game in Nationals history, equaling the 2009 season finale, a 2-1 win over none other than the Braves at Turner Field. The five-hour, 29-minute affair was the lengthiest in terms of time elapsed. Meanwhile, the 19 strikeouts compiled by the Washington bullpen shattered the all-time Major League mark, at least as far back as anyone can be sure. The records for such a stat only date back to 1971, to which point the highest total ever compiled by a relief staff in a single game was 16. But considering the way the sport had evolved, with increased strikeout rates and higher bullpen usage, it’s hard to imagine any club amassing a comparable total in any previous era.

Following Stephen Strasburg’s second-inning ejection, Tanner Roark was the first Nationals reliever to answer the call, entering a 4-2 game and providing four innings of one-hit, scoreless relief with six strikeouts. Drew Storen tossed a perfect seventh inning, striking out the side. Ian Krol rebounded from a tough Friday night outing to put up two more scoreless frames in extra innings, and Craig Stammen followed a two-inning stint Friday night with a 55-pitch, three-inning scoreless stretch to get the game to the 15th inning.

Dan Haren earned his first Major League save in relief.

Dan Haren earned his first Major League save in relief.

Of course, in the midst of the impressive relief outings, the Braves tied the game in the ninth, making all of the extra pomp and circumstance necessary in the first place. But neither team would score again until the 15th inning, when Adam LaRoche punished a hanging breaking ball from Kris Medlen for a moonshot to right field, the ball searing through the mist at Turner Field before coming to rest in the bleachers, a dozen rows deep, giving the Nationals the lead once more.

That left the game to Haren, summoned from the bullpen to make his first relief appearance since 2004. Haren had thrown his routine side work prior to the game, tossing 30-35 pitches, which he followed with an upper body workout. But when Strasburg’s evening was cut short, several hours earlier, he offered up his services, should they be needed. They were.

“I’m proud of him for even doing that,” said Randy Knorr, who took over as manager when Davey Johnson was ejected along with Strasburg. “A lot of guys wouldn’t even have gone down there after throwing a bullpen.”

Haren allowed a single, but that was all, striking out Jordan Schafer flailing at a splitter, his bat sent cartwheeling towards the Braves dugout to end the game. That netted Haren first Major League save, and only his second as a professional, the other coming more than 12 years prior as a member of the New Jersey Cardinals of the Short-season New York Penn League on July 15, 2001 against the Lowell Spinners.

“I’m only supposed to do media every five days,” Haren joked as the huddle approached his locker after 1 a.m. local time.

In the end, the Nationals went home with a big road victory in Atlanta. Their reward. Both clubs get a whopping 12 hours and 46 minutes between the final out and the first pitch on Sunday afternoon. Haren summed it up best when all was said and done.

“Five-hour games are fine when you win them. But when you lose them, they really stink.”

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