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Nats 8, Braves 2: More big hits in another rout over Atlanta

Sep 5, 2015, 10:12 PM EDT

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GAME IN A NUTSHELL: Thursday night’s series opener was a blowout. Friday night’s game was a nailbiting, extra-inning thriller. Now came another blowout for the Nationals against a Braves ballclub in complete disarray.

The Nationals’ bats broke out once again, this time against Shelby Miller, whose hard-luck season reached a new low when he allowed seven earned runs in only 4 1/3 innings, even though six of those could be directly attributed to shaky defense behind him. Bryce Harper launched another home run, then added two doubles for good measure. Ian Desmond had three hits. Ryan Zimmerman drove in another two runs to continue his torrid RBI streak.

Gio Gonzalez, meanwhile, was the sharpest he’s been in weeks, tossing six scoreless innings and allowing only two hits while striking out 10 before handing things over to the Nationals bullpen, which closed this one out with ease, sending the Braves to their 11th straight loss and 18th in their last 19 games.

The Nats, on the other hand, have now won 12 of their last 18 games, keeping pressure on the Mets, who also won in a rout tonight in Miami. The deficit in the NL East remains 5 games heading into Sunday’s series finale, the final precursor to next week’s showdown at Nationals Park.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: It feels like Harper is coming up with new ways every night to impress you at the plate. He had the 4-walk, 4-run, 0-swing game on Thursday. Then he hit the longest homer of his career Friday night. Now he put together another impressive performance in Game 3 of the weekend series. Harper went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles and a homer that capped what might’ve been the best at-bat of his career. Harper was down 0-2 to Miller, then fouled off four pitches while working the count full, then somehow managed to launch a 95-mph cutter at his knees into the Red Porch seats for his 33rd homer of the season. Later in the game, he fumed at plate umpire Jerry Meals over borderline strike calls on 3-0 and 3-1 pitches. So how did he respond? By roping a double on the 3-2 pitch.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: It’s been an erratic summer for Gonzalez, who entered this one having won only once in his last seven starts. There were still some erratic moments tonight, in the form of four walks, but there was a lot more good than bad. Gonzalez tossed six innings of scoreless ball, carrying a no-hitter into the top of the sixth. He also struck out 10, using his fastball particularly well this time. For the Nationals to make a real run down the stretch, they’re going to need all five of their starters performing up to capability. This was an encouraging sign Gonzalez could still have that in him.

KEY STAT: From Aug. 22, 2012-June 20, 2014, the Nationals went 7-24 against the Braves. Since then, they’ve gone 19-7, including 12-3 this season.

UP NEXT: The Nationals will got for the 4-game sweep at 1:35 p.m. Sunday, with Joe Ross (5-5, 3.50) facing Braves lefty Manny Bañelos (1-3, 3.33).

  1. fpa4356 - Sep 5, 2015 at 10:27 PM

    Thank you, great game in a nutshell indeed !

  2. Joe Seamhead - Sep 5, 2015 at 10:29 PM

    Harper is just getting better and better. This old boy is truly enjoying watching him no matter what else happens this year.

    • rmoore446 - Sep 5, 2015 at 10:48 PM

      Same with this old boy, Joe. I hope Harper has another homer in his bat tomorrow or Monday when I will be at the ball park.

  3. Joe Seamhead - Sep 5, 2015 at 10:47 PM

    I found a great early article written on Michael A Taylor. Funny, he compliments Michael Morse for helping him early in his minor league career when Beast was rehabbing. Anyway, worth the read:
    http://www.northernvirginiamag.com/entertainment/faces/2012/06/28/too-young-to-peak/

  4. janebeard - Sep 5, 2015 at 11:39 PM

    It was a very fun game. Harper really does find new ways to be impressive. We had some new people sitting in front of us, in the midst of a “see every stadium” trip. He remarked how cool it was to see the Kid in person. And it really is. Gosh I hope they keep it going!

    • Section 222 - Sep 6, 2015 at 12:31 AM

      That’s very cool Jane. Watching Bryce every night is a true privilege. We need to remember that.

      • sec112 - Sep 6, 2015 at 1:55 AM

        My wife, who rarely joins me at the games, turned to me tonight after Harper roped his second double and said “Bryce Harper is really good at baseball”.

        That about covers it!

  5. Section 222 - Sep 6, 2015 at 12:33 AM

    MMN is 23 with 27 to play. It would be great to hold it steady and pick up a game tomorrow, and then keep it there for awhile by taking care of business starting on Labor Day.

  6. Dave - Sep 6, 2015 at 12:34 AM

    Here’s yet another scoring question:

    In the fourth tonight, on the weird play at the plate, I saw the replay and understand that Yunel’s was a legitimate earned run. Then Desi scored on the throwing writer by the catcher.

    How can Desi’s be an earned run? Is the judgment that he would have scored on Gio’s sac bunt? That’s all I can figure.

    • Dave - Sep 6, 2015 at 12:38 AM

      Sorry. Desi scored on the throwing error.

      Swype is great, but its autocorrect can be really stupid sometimes.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 6, 2015 at 1:26 AM

      Runs scored on a wild pitch are earned; on passed balls, or errors by a fielder, including E-1, they are not.

      Remember, “earned” means earned by the pitcher, not the offense. A wild pitch is a pitching event, not a fielding event.

      • Sam - Sep 6, 2015 at 8:16 AM

        The rulebook actually says that because the pitcher and catcher handle the ball so much, wild pitches and passed balls do not count as errors.

    • Dave - Sep 6, 2015 at 7:28 AM

      I get the one scored on the WP. I don’t understand the one scored on the E2. If that error didn’t happen, if the catcher’s throw was good, Desmond would’ve been out, right? Hence the ruling that it was an error. How can a run scored on an error be earned?

    • Sam - Sep 6, 2015 at 8:28 AM

      I think that what you said is correct. Escobar scored on the fielder’s choice. Desmond scored on the E2. I guess because of the sac bunt a batter later, the run is earned. Maybe it’s because he reached base on a non-error and there were less than 2 outs when he scored?

    • Dave - Sep 6, 2015 at 8:31 AM

      Just to be clear…

      The play I’m asking about is NOT the wild pitch play.

      It’s the play when Ramos hit an infield grounder and reached on a fielder’s choice, allowing Escobar to score, followed by a throwing error by the Atlanta catcher that allowed Desmond to score.

      There was neither a wild pitch nor a passed ball on that play.

      My question is why Desmond’s run can be scored as earned since it was scored on a throwing error (not WP or PB).

  7. Sam - Sep 6, 2015 at 8:14 AM

    Not to nitpick, but Harper actually hit an 89-MPH …something…on his HR. MW called it a breaking ball…somewhere between a bad slider and a bad cutter.

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