Sep 3, 2015, 3:34 PM EDT
The last three nights presented perhaps the Nationals’ toughest test the rest of the season: a road series in St. Louis against the best team in baseball. As frustrating as that series proved to be, they emerged with one win. Which, to be honest, is probably what most would have expected going into it. Now, they begin the final 30 games of the season, with a far more favorable schedule: Every opponent they face the rest of the way has a losing record, except for the Mets.
It begins tonight with the first of four against the reeling Braves, who have lost 15 of their last 16, falling into fourth place in the NL East. They’ve lost nine straight road games, 13 of their last 15 away from home. Yikes.
We’re still waiting for a lineup, with the Nationals trying to find out if Bryce Harper and Michael Taylor are ready to return. Stay tuned for that. Meanwhile, Jordan Zimmermann gets the ball, coming off a strong start against the Marlins and four strong starts against the Braves this season (2-0, 1.88 ERA). Rookie Matt Wisler (5-5, 5.22 ERA) takes the mound for Atlanta.
[UPDATE: Harper is in the lineup, Taylor is not.]
Plenty of updates to come live from the park, so please check back…
ATLANTA BRAVES at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM, XM 183/869
Weather: Partly cloudy, 87 degrees, Wind 4 mph out to LF
RF Jayson Werth
2B Anthony Rendon
CF Bryce Harper
1B Ryan Zimmerman
LF Clint Robinson
3B Yunel Escobar
SS Ian Desmond
C Wilson Ramos
RHP Jordan Zimmermann
RF Nick Markakis
CF Cameron Maybin
1B Freddie Freeman
C A.J. Pierzynski
LF Nick Swisher
2B Jace Peterson
3B Hector Olivera
SS Andrelton Simmons
RHP Matt Wisler
HP Clint Fagan
1B Paul Emmel
2B Jerry Meals (cc)
3B Andy Fletcher
7:05 p.m. — And we’re underway on a muggy Thursday night in the District with ball one from Jordan Zimmermann to Nick Markakis.
7:21 p.m. — The top of the first featured a rarity: Two walks issued by Zimmermann, who entered tonight with only 29 free passes on the season. He got out of it, though, when A.J. Pierzysnki hit a soft liner to second and Anthony Rendon was able to double up Markakis. That set the stage for the Nats to do some damage in the bottom of the first, which they did, all with 2 outs. Bryce Harper drew his customary walk, after which the crowd greeted Ryan Zimmerman with a loud, prolonged standing ovation the night after he launched career homer No. 200. And Zim thanked them by nearly hitting No. 201 on the very first pitch, settling instead for a double off the wall in right-center. No matter, because Clint Robinson lined a 2-run single to left-center, giving the Nats a 2-0 lead after one.
7:57 p.m. — Wow, the rout is on. The Braves scored a run in the top of the second (via a walk, a balk, a wild pitch and a groundout) but the Nats came right back and scored five in the bottom of the inning, sending 10 men to the plate and knocking Matt Wisler from the game and bringing in the one and only Sugar Ray Marimon out of the Atlanta pen. Big at-bats from Desmond (double), Ramos (RBI double), Harper (bases-loaded walk), Zimmerman (sac fly for his 20th RBI in 10-plus games) and Escobar (2-run single). It’s 7-1 Nats after only two innings.
8:25 p.m. — Good lord, it’s 10-1 Nats after three. The Braves have used four pitchers already. The Nats have had five at-bats with the bases loaded. Harper has walked three times and scored three times. Zimmerman has three RBI, giving him 22 in his last 10-plus games and an incredible 70 in only 91-plus games this season. It’s all going the Nats’ way tonight. Boy did they need this.
8:40 p.m. — Stop the presses! The Nats didn’t score in the fourth inning! They did hit the ball hard, though. Still 10-1 heading to the fifth. Chase is going to take over the game thread so I can get an early start on the Instant Analysis for a change.
Chase here taking over for Mark while he writes his game story
9:05 p.m. — So. Many. Runs. The Nationals added two more in the fifth to make it a 12-1 game. The scores – which were both against former Nats pitcher Ross Detwiler – came on a Zimmerman RBI double and a Ramos sac fly to score Zim. Zimmerman now has four RBI on the night and 71 on the season through 92 games. This guy just can’t be stopped.
9:30 p.m. — The runs just keep on coming. The Nats pushed two more across in the sixth to make it 14-1. Robinson brought home Tyler Moore – who pinch-hit for Werth – on a sac fly. Escobar then singled home Rendon. Harper was also removed for den Dekker and Espinosa pinch-hit for Zimmerman.
9:46 p.m. — No runs to report on in the seventh inning. It’s still 14-1. But we did see Trea Turner get his first MLB hit. He smacked a groundball to Peterson at second base and beat the throw barely to first base. The ball was also dropped by Freeman.
9:59 p.m. — The Nats put another one on the board in the eighth on a solo homer by Espinosa. It was his Espinosa’s 13th homer of the season. It’s now 15-1.
10:07 p.m. — It’s finally over. Nats win 15-1. 14 runs is the largest margin of victory in Nationals team history.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
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