Results tagged ‘ Atlanta Braves ’

What to Watch for: 6.2.13

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Washington Nationals (28-28) vs. Atlanta Braves (33-22)

RHP Nathan Karns (0-0, 6.23) vs. LHP Paul Maholm (6-4, 3.74)

Washington sends rookie Nathan Karns to the hill in search of his first Major League win as the Nationals look to take the series in Atlanta. If recent history is any indication, Sunday’s finale should be a close contest. Six of the last seven games between these two teams have been decided by two runs or less, with each club winning three of those six.


1. Span CF

2. Lombardozzi LF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Desmond SS

6. Moore RF

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Solano C

9. Karns RHP


The Nationals aim for the rubber match victory today before returning home (where they are 15-11 this season) for 20 of their next 32 contests. Washington has played 21 of its last 31 games on the road, compiling a 15-16 record during that stretch.


Washington has not committed an error as a team for a season-high five consecutive games. Up the middle, the defense has been particularly strong, with Ian Desmond playing 37 straight error-free contests, while Danny Espinosa has pitched in 22 straight outings without a defensive miscue.


When scoring three or more runs this season, the Nationals are 24-5, good for an .828 winning percentage. Conversely, the club is just 4-23 when scoring two times or less (.148).

Highlights: 6.1.13

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6.1.13 – Braves 2, Nationals 1 (10 innings)

Stat of the Game: Gio Gonzalez allowed just three hits and a walk over seven frames, fanning seven Braves.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Ryan Zimmerman had Washington’s lone multi-hit performance, and is now batting .349/.411/.558 since May 9.

It Was Over When: B.J. Upton floated a single to right field in the 10th inning to score Jordan Schafer.

What to Watch for: 6.1.13

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Washington Nationals (28-27) vs. Atlanta Braves (32-22)

LHP Gio Gonzalez (3-3, 3.90) vs. RHP Tim Hudson (4-4, 5.37)

The Nationals snagged the series opener for their third consecutive win over the Braves at Turner Field with a 3-2 victory Friday night. Tonight, they’ll send Gio Gonzalez to the mound, who notched a 2.48 ERA over his five May starts. The Braves will counter with Tim Hudson, who is 0-3 with an 8.69 ERA (19 ER/19.2 IP) over his last four outings.


1. Span CF

2. Lombardozzi LF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Desmond SS

6. Bernadina RF

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Suzuki C

9. Gonzalez LHP


Craig Stammen picked up the win last night with a career-high 4.0 perfect relief innings, in which he fanned three and retired all 12 batters faced. No reliever in Nationals (‘05-present) history has ever faced as many batters in an appearance without allowing a baserunner. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last reliever in Nationals/Expos franchise history to pitch 4.0 or more innings without allowing a baserunner was Sun-Woo Kim (13 batters in 4.1 IP) on May 10, 2004 vs. Kansas City. The longest such relief appearance in franchise history was posted by Jackie Brown (18 batters in 6.0 IP) on May 21, 1977 vs. San Diego.


The Nationals went 15-13 in May, which was no small feat considering they played 18 of their 28 games on the road. Dating to September 2011, the Nationals have played winning baseball in eight of the last nine months. Adam LaRoche led the way for the Nationals in nearly every offensive category, including average (.330), on-base percentage (.416), slugging percentage (.608), walks (15), hits (32), home runs (seven) and RBI (19).


The Nationals recalled right-handed pitcher Erik Davis from Triple-A Syracuse, who has pitched in 167 games over six Minor League seasons, but is wearing a Major League uniform for the first time. After going 8-3 with a 2.71 ERA and 74 strikeouts against 20 walks in 73.0 innings between Double-A Harrisburg and Syracuse last season, Davis was added to the 40-man roster this offseason. He went 1-2 with a 3.00 ERA (8 ER/24.0 IP) and 27 strikeouts with the Chiefs prior to his call-up.

Stammen The Tide

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A couple weeks ago, when discussing the options for taking over the injured Ross Detwiler’s spot in the rotation, Davey Johnson opted not to go with Craig Stammen, despite the righty’s excellent numbers early in the season. In fact, it was precisely because of those numbers that Johnson felt he needed Stammen in case of emergency long relief, or if the team needed quality extra-inning work. And while one never wishes for such situations to arise, when one did Friday night in a crucial series opener in Atlanta, Stammen was there to answer the call.

Did he ever.

Craig Stammen silenced the Braves over four innings of emergency relief to earn his third win.

Craig Stammen silenced the Braves over four innings of emergency relief to earn his third win.

The right-hander came on with the Nationals ahead 2-1 in the bottom of the third and set down all 12 Braves batters he faced, three by strikeout, to bridge the gap to the back of the bullpen. Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen and Rafael Soriano tossed an inning each to finish out a 3-2 victory, one that seemed a stretch to believe after Stephen Strasburg departed with tightness in his back after just two frames.

“He was unbelievable, he did a great job,” said Johnson of Stammen’s clutch performance. “I thought he could go about 50 pitches, and he did. He probably could have gone further…It was a big win. We needed it bad.”

While it’s hard to call any single outcome in a 162-game season a must-win, Friday night may well have been the most significant single matchup on the schedule so far this season. Coming off a pair of disappointing setbacks in Baltimore, the Nationals sat with even .500 record, trailing the first-place Braves by 5.5 games in the division. With Strasburg on the mound against up-and-down rookie starter Julio Teheran, Washington appeared to have the advantage in the pitching matchup heading into the evening. When that assumed advantage was suddenly thrown out the window, it was Stammen who led the charge, as the team came together to gut out a huge win.

“I try to stick to my routine of taking it one pitch at a time,” explained Stammen, acknowledging the overused phrase, but emphasizing the importance of that mindset. “It may sound cliché, but that’s really the only way you can look at it. If you put your heart and soul into every pitch, every time, sooner or later you look up and you’re through three or four innings.”

Denard Span used his speed to deliver two of Washington's three runs.

Denard Span used his speed to deliver two of Washington’s three runs.

Stammen’s four innings gave the offense enough time to piece together another run, just enough to squeak out a victory. All three runs came via productive outs, and all three were set up thanks to hustle plays. Leading off both the first and sixth innings, Denard Span stretched for an extra base after lacing a ball into the right-field corner, notching a pair of triples. In each case he went on to score easily on a deep sacrifice fly to right field by Steve Lombardozzi. The only other Washington tally came after Roger Bernadina and Danny Espinosa each singled with one out in the second, The Shark racing around to third base after Espinosa’s chopper bounced through the right side of the infield. Kurt Suzuki followed with a grounder to third, but busted hard out of the box, beating out the back end of a potential inning-ending, 5-4-3 double play, allowing Bernadina to score.

Together, the bullpen and lineup showed the kind of hustle and effort it will take to win games with Bryce Harper, Wilson Ramos and Jayson Werth still out of the lineup. Ultimately, Friday night’s game was one of sacrifice – Stammen’s well-earned tourniquet victory, Lombardozzi’s pair of run-scoring fly balls – of giving up whatever was needed to get the victory. It was epitomized by Stammen’s attitude afterward, one which the Nationals will need to embrace as they slowly get back to full strength.

“I’ll be here tomorrow with my cleats on,” he said, despite throwing 49 pitches over his four perfect frames. “If it goes 20 innings, I’m sure I can flip something up there.”

Highlights: 5.31.13

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5.31.13 – Nationals 3, Braves 2

Stat of the Game: Craig Stammen retired all 12 batters he faced out of the bullpen to earn his third win of the season. 

Under-the-Radar Performance: Denard Span tripled and scored twice to provide the bulk of the offense.

It Was Over When: Rafael Soriano closed the door with a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his 15th save in 18 chances this season.

What to Watch for: 5.31.13

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Washington Nationals (27-27) vs. Atlanta Braves (32-21)

RHP Stephen Strasburg (3-5, 2.49) vs. RHP Julio Teheran (3-1, 3.67)

The Nationals enter a three-game road series against division-rival Atlanta with Stephen Strasburg on the hill in a battle of right-handers. Washington split its other series at Turner Field earlier this season, winning the final two contests of the four-game set. Strasburg comes into tonight’s game with a 0.96 ERA (3 ER/28.0 IP) and 27 strikeouts over his last four starts.


1. Span CF

2. Lombardozzi LF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche DH

5. Desmond SS

6. Bernadina RF

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Suzuki C

9. Strasburg RHP


Tonight’s game marks the 300th contest that Davey Johnson has skippered for the Nationals. Johnson was named the team’s fifth manager on June 26, 2011, and he penned his first lineup card the following day when Washington opened a three-game set on the road against the Angels. Here’s a look at how Johnson’s first 300 with the Nationals stack up to his the first 300 at his previous stops:

Team             Years                First 300 gms         Accomplishments (first 300 gms)

Washington     ‘11-current         165-134 (.552)            ‘12 NL MGR, ‘12 NL East Champs

L.A. – NL         ‘99-00                150-150 (.500)           —

Baltimore        ‘96-97                174-125-1 (.580)        ‘96 Wild Card

Cincinnati       ‘93-95                 161-138-1 (.537)        ‘94 NL Central Champs

New York-NL   ‘84-90                 174-126 (.580)           —


The Nationals continue a seven-game road trip from Baltimore (0-2) to Atlanta, tonight opening a 3-game set against the Braves. This weekend’s series at Turner Field completes a 32-game stretch for the Nationals that has included just 10 home games. Washington is 14-15 thus far in this span.

Canceling The Noise

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As Greg Maddux so astutely pointed out to Tom Glavine in the hilarious Nike ad from the late ’90s, chicks dig the long ball. In fact, so does every baseball fan and writer, as home runs are, incidentally, the loudest happening on a baseball field. Perhaps it’s no surprise then, that Justin Upton and the hard-swinging Atlanta Braves garnered many of the season’s early headlines.

While the Nationals have plenty of potential for pop in their own lineup, there is no denying that the pitching will lead them as far as they go this season. So it was only fitting that, after an 8-1 loss which left their final April record at just 13-14, Washington quietly rebounded with a pair of dominant pitching performances to earn a four-game split of a tough road series in Atlanta.

Dan Haren and the Nationals are quietly back within 2.5 games of first place.

Dan Haren and the Nationals are quietly back within 2.5 games of first place.

Following Jordan Zimmermann’s beauty on Wednesday, veteran Dan Haren shredded his way through the Braves lineup with stunning efficiency on Thursday, allowing just a solo home run over eight innings.

At one point, Nationals pitchers had retired 28 straight Atlanta hitters, one better than the equivalent of a perfect game over the two-day stretch. They ran up an 18-inning scoreless streak as well, and have allowed just one run over their last 21 frames entering this weekend’s series in Pittsburgh.

It was, perhaps, a bit ironic that on the day that Upton was honored with the National League Player of the Month – and Evan Gattis the NL Rookie of the Month – it was the rival Nationals bullying their way to another big road win, sucking the air out of the Turner Field crowd.

Even more so, the Nationals were able to jump on nemesis Kris Medlen early for the only three runs they would need. They didn’t do it by leaving the ballpark, but rather thanks to a pair of doubles by the pesky, opportunistic Denard Span, who scored the game’s first run, then scooted a ball down the third base line to plate the rest of the Washington scoring an inning later.

And so, quietly, the Nationals have put a lackluster April behind them, and are just 2.5 games back of first place in the first week of May. With the ever-improving Ross Detwiler set to take the hill Friday night, Washington looks to carry that momentum, led by their pitching, into the Steel City.

Highlights: 5.2.13

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5.2.13 – Nationals 3, Braves 1

Stat of the Game: Dan Haren needed just 90 pitches to complete a season-high eight innings of work in earning his second consecutive victory.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Denard Span factored in all three Washington scores, finishing 3-for-4 with a walk, two doubles, a run scored and two RBI.

It Was Over When: Rafael Soriano popped out Dan Uggla as the tying run in the bottom of the ninth to earn the series split.

What to Watch for: 5.2.13

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Washington Nationals (14-14) vs. Atlanta Braves (17-10)

RHP Dan Haren (2-3, 6.29) vs. RHP Kris Medlen (1-3, 3.26)

The Nationals rode another shutdown performance from Jordan Zimmermann to a 2-0 victory last night, setting up a shot at a split of the four-game set against Atlanta tonight. Dan Haren is coming off his best start and second win of the season, while Kris Medlen is coming off his worst, in which he allowed five runs on 10 hits and two walks in 5.1 innings of work.


1. Span CF

2. Lombardozzi 2B

3. Harper LF

4. Werth RF

5. Desmond SS

6. LaRoche 1B

7. Rendon 3B

8. Ramos C

9. Haren RHP


With his two-run shot in the fourth inning, Ian Desmond became the first player in Nationals (2005-present) history to homer in his first career start as a cleanup hitter. Going back further, Desmond is the first franchise player to homer in his first start in the cleanup spot since the Expos Greg Colbrunn, May 26, 1993 vs. St. Louis.


Jordan Zimmermann tossed 8.0 dominant, scoreless innings, surrendering just two hits. He walked none, struck out a season-high eight and ran his personal string of consecutive scoreless innings to 18.0 straight in the process. He has allowed just five baserunners (three hits, two walks) over that stretch.


According to the Elias Sports Bureau, last night’s tilt was the first nine-inning big league contest since 1997 (Toronto at Milwaukee, Game One of July 28 twin bill) in which neither team had a batter reach base (via hit, walk, HBP or error) from the fifth inning to the end of the game.

Quietly Storming

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A quick look at Jordan Zimmermann’s 2013 season so far shows that he has been, unequivocally, one of the 10 best pitchers in baseball. His 1.64 ERA (sixth), five wins (tied-second), .168 batting average against (fourth) and 0.75 WHIP (second) all rank among the top marks in the Major Leagues. Somehow, even considering all of that, he may still be underrated.

Dating back to his final inning of work on April 21 in New York, the Wisconsin native has shut out opponents over his last 18 frames. In his last two starts, against the dangerous lineups of the Reds and Braves, he has allowed just three hits and a walk in 17 innings of work.

Almost always stoic and composed on the mound, Zimmermann's internal fire leads him to go right after hitters.

Almost always stoic and composed on the mound, Zimmermann’s internal fire leads him to go right after hitters.

The reason for Zimmermann’s success is no secret. He comes right after hitters with all four of his featured pitches – his fastball, slider, curveball and changeup – and attacks the strike zone. In fact, he has thrown at least 60 strikes in all but one of his starts. The lone exception? His first career shutout, a one-hitter in which he needed only 91 pitches (59 of them strikes) to silence the Reds bats.

“I’m just getting ahead of guys, throwing strikes, making them hit my pitch,” Zimmermann said after his latest gem in Atlanta. “Last year, I’d fall behind and have to battle to get back to even and ahead in the count…this year, so far, I’ve stayed in attack mode and gone right after hitters.”

Zimmermann’s ability to control the strike zone is reflected in his ever-improving strikeout-to-walk rate, which sits at 3.83 so far this season, up from 3.56 last season. His career mark of 3.53 would rank right alongside Zack Greinke in the top 20 all-time among pitchers with 1,000 or more innings thrown. While Zimmermann has only tossed just over half that total (523.1 after Wednesday’s shutout of the Braves), the 26-year-old shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Last season, Zimmermann was a model of consistency, throwing at least six innings in each of his first 21 starts. But he never made it past the seventh in any of those outings, throwing exactly six frames 12 times. Through six starts this season, the righty has finished eight or more innings three times already, including a pair of complete games.

“I think that’s just experience,” said Davey Johnson of Zimmermann’s improvement in efficiency. “He’s getting more comfortable with the league, the ballparks, the umpires, the mounds, the hitters and how they approach him.”

And while Zimmermann remains as calm and collected as ever on the mound, the competitive engine within him – the one fans got a glimpse of in the seventh inning of Game 4 of the NLDS last year – churns as strong as ever.

“He’s got that calm demeanor,” explained Johnson. “But there’s a big fire going on inside him.”


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