After horror struck Nationals Park last evening, the woes continued this afternoon as the Atlanta Braves (52-41) downed the Washington Nationals (53-39) in the day portion of Saturday’s double-header, 4-0. With the nightcap between these two teams under an hour away, the Braves sit just 1.5 games out of first place in the ever-competitive NL East. To make matters worse, rookie superstar Bryce Harper went down in the 3rd after an attempted bunt hit his left foot in his first at-bat in the 1st. An MRI revealed no break, but he is still questionable for tonight’s game. Ben Sheets (2-0) pitched six solid shutout, five hit innings for the away team while Edwin Jackson (5-6) also had an extremely solid start for the Nats although he earned the loss.
Despite the gloomy setting that surrounded our nation’s capital this afternoon, the Braves came out swinging early as Brian McCann unloaded a solo homerun in the top of the 2nd to put the score at a quick 1-0. Jackson would then settle in for the Nats, striking out an eventual nine hitters in seven innings of work while only giving up five hits and two walks plus the one homer. After last night’s catastrophe, in which the Nats squandered a 9-0 lead in the 5th to lose 11-10 in extras on ace Stephen Strasburg’s 24th birthday, the home team needed a long outing from their starter so the bullpen could recover.
Jackson surely did his job after giving up four earned runs in five innings in a loss at Miami earlier in the week, but nevertheless Nats fans began to shiver in the 8th when the one and only Henry Rodriguez was sent into the game to hold the deficit at just 1-0. As you would probably suspect, he DID NOT do just that. Rodriguez quickly gave up a single to the speedy Michael Bourn, who stole 2nd successfully on the very next pitch. Martin Prado then walked for the Braves, and a double steal put the runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs. Can you feel what’s coming next? Yup, you guessed it, a wild pitch by Davey’s “guy,” Mr. Rodriguez, which scored Bourn and turned the game into now a two run deficit for the Nats. Rodriguez was then removed after a whopping 0.0IP of work for Ryan Mattheus, who was able to hold the Braves in check for the rest of the 8th. However, he then quickly gave up a two-run shot to right field in the 9th to the ever-popular Chipper Jones, and the Nats pretty much quit from there.
Don’t get me wrong; Ben Sheets pitched a great game for the Braves. However, the Nats had a few chances to convert and were unable to do so on all of them in this one. The DC club left two runners on in the 1st, one on in the 2nd, and two in the 6th. Their best opportunity came in the 3rd inning, however, when Roger Bernadina bunted for a single and then quickly stole 2nd and advanced to 3rd on a bad throw by the catcher McCann. Ryan Zimmerman would then walk, but unfortunately Michael Morse would ground into a double play to end the inning. There just isn’t much to good to report about the Nationals at this moment, but all are definitely hoping this quick yet horrendous slump will end tonight when AAA call-up and former Opening Day starter John Lannan takes the mound at 7:05.
Champ of the Game: Jackson was probably the only guy to play well for the Nats today in a game that certainly will be forgotten around baseball…just dreadful and boring at that. A nice rebound from his last start, and we can only hope the inconsistency Jackson has been plagued by this whole year will soon come to an end as the late months of the season quickly approach.
For the Braves, Brian McCann, who went 1-2 with the homer and 2 walks. Definitely struck fear into the Nats pitchers today.
Chump of the Game: Pretty much the rest of the lineup for the Nationals, but you’ve got to hand it to Henry Rodriguez, who continues to be the worst reliever in ALL of baseball.
Dan Uggla’s day was ugly for the Braves, as the former all-star went 0-4 with 4 Ks.
Next Game: TONIGHT, 7:05 PM at Nationals Park. Randall Delgado (4-9, 4.52 ERA) takes on today’s call-up from AAA Syracuse, John Lannan (0-0, 0.00 ERA). No pressure…