Game 76: Braves 7, Nationals 5

June 30, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher

The Nationals and Braves played an afternoon game in HotLanta which saw the on field temperature reach 118 degrees. The heat affected Nats pitcher Stephen Strasburg, who had his shortest outing of the year, lasting only three innings and giving up three runs before being pulled at the beginning of the bottom of the fourth inning with a case of heat exhaustion.

The Nats scored off Braves starter Mike Minor in the first inning. Danny Espinosa hit a lead off double, moving to third on a Bryce Harper groundout and scoring on a Ryan Zimmerman groundout. In the second, Adam LaRoche lead off the inning on a ground rule double. LaRoche moved to third on a groundout by Ian Desmond. After Tyler Moore hit a lineout to Dan Uggla, the Braves elected to intentionally walk Jesus Flores to pitch to Strasburg. Apparently the Braves forgot that Stephen is hitting over .300 this year. Strasburg hit a single which scored LaRoche.

In the top of the third the Nats looked like they were going to break the game open. After Harper flew out, Ryan Zimmerman walked, Morse singled and LaRoche walked to load the bases. Unfortunately, Desmond ground into a double play on a ball hit up the middle because Dan Uggla had positioned himself perfectly to get to the ball. The Nats came away with no runs from the bases loaded situation. Strasburg struck out Minor to start the bottom of the third. He then walked Michael Bourne and Martin Prado back to back for the second time in the game. Strasburg did not wiggle out of the jam this time, giving up a double to Jason Heyward which scored Bourne, a sacrifice fly to Freddie Freeman which scored Prado, and a double to Uggla which scored Heyward. Atlanta was ahead 3-2, and would not relinquish the lead the rest of the way. After getting out of the bases loaded jam in the top of the third and getting a lead to work with, Minor pitched effectively through the fifth inning.

When Strasburg was taken out of the game in the fourth inning, Davey Johnson called upon Chien-Ming Wang. Because the removal of Strasburg was considered an injury situation, Wang received as many warm up pitches as he wanted. It wasn’t enough. Wang gave up three runs in the fourth, giving up a single to Andrelton Simmons, a double to Juan Francisco, a double to Bourne, and a sacrifice fly to Prado. Wang gave up another run in the fifth on a double by Simmons which scored Freeman, who had singled to lead off the inning and moved to second on a groundout by Brian McCann.

The Nats scored twice in the top of the sixth. Minor gave up a walk to LaRoche and a double to Desmond to put runners on second and third with nobody out. The Braves replaced Minor with Kris Medlin in relief. Tyler Moore singled to score LaRoche, and Flores singled to score Desmond. Rick Ankiel ground into a double play in his pinch hit appearance. Espinosa struck out to end the inning.

Tom Gorzelanny pitched the sixth and seventh innings and was effective, not allowing a run during his two innings pitched. The Nats picked up another run off Medlin in the top of the seventh. Medlin gave up a single to Michael Morse, who took second on a wild pitch. LaRoche then doubled to score Morse. The Braves brought in Chad Durbin to finish out the inning, and after he walked Desmond and Moore, he induced Flores to groundout to get out of a bases loaded jam.  The score was Braves 7, Nationals 5 at the end of the seventh inning. The Nats had clawed their way back into the game, but could not score any more runs. Craig Kimbrel got the save for the Braves, getting Zimmerman to ground out and Morse and LaRoche to strike out to end the game.

Champ of the Game: Adam LaRoche had two doubles, an RBI and a walk. He made a nice recovery from going 0-5 yesterday.
For the second day in a row, Andrelton Simmons gets the vote as the champ of the game for the Braves. He had two singles, a double, scored from first on Francisco’s double, and clocked in with another RBI. He has made a very impressive beginning to his major league career.

Chump of the Game: No, it isn’t Chien-Ming Wang. Davey Johnson should have known better than to use Wang in relief with no time to warm up. The better course of action would have been to bring Gorzelanny in to pitch in the fourth and fifth and possibly the sixth and have Wang warming in the bullpen for two or three innings and then used Wang when he was sufficiently prepared. Having Mark DeRosa lead off as a pinch hitter the top of the eighth when it was critical to try to get a runner on (DeRosa struck out) turned out not to be too smart either. Davey Johnson was the Nats chump of the game.

Clearly the chump of the game for the Braves was relief pitcher Kris Medlin, who gave up three runs in an inning and two thirds and let the Nats back into the game.

Unsung Hero: Stephen Strasburg’s hitting. Strasburg had an RBI single and drew a walk in his two plate appearances today. His contributions at the plate will be overlooked in the discussion about his rough pitching outing, but he continues to produce. His .348 batting average is currently among the best in major league baseball for starting pitchers.

Next Game: Sunday July 1st against the Braves at 1:35 p.m. at Turner Field in Atlanta, with Gio Gonzalez (10-3, 2.78) facing Tim Hudson (6-3, 3.58) in another game where the intense heat may be a factor.

Topics: Adam LaRoche, Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta Braves, Braves, Chien-Ming Wang, Nationals, Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals

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