The Nationals lost to the Atlanta Braves 3-0 in the first game of a four game series at Nats Park. The Nationals cannot seem to solve the Braves, getting beaten by Atlanta for the seventh time this year in the seven games played between the two teams.
Jordan Zimmermann pitched well enough to win–if the Nationals hitters could have mustered any offense against Braves starter Gavin Floyd. The Nats batters appeared to be overanxious against Floyd, swinging at the same outside curve ball over and over tossed up by Floyd with the same result–nothing.
Chris Johnson was responsible for driving in all three Atlanta runs, two off of Jordan Zimmermann in the fourth and one off of Jerry Blevins in the eighth inning. (I’ll admit it–the more I see of Blevins the less I like).
The Braves started their scoring in the fourth inning. After B.J. Upton struck out, Freddie Freeman, Evan Gattis and Jason Heyward hit singles in succession to load the bases. Johnson singled to drive in Freeman and Gattis. Zimmermann then got Ryan Doumit to fly out and Andrelton Simmons to strike out to end the inning. The single Johnson hit was really unfortunate, because Danny Espinosa had a play on the ball but just couldn’t corral it. Had he done so, it probably would have resulted in an inning ending double play. Thee two runs scored by Atlanta in the fourth inning would be enough.
Floyd allowed two hits and walked only one batter over six innings. Floyd came out to start the seventh inning, but after throwing one pitch to Jayson Werth, he shook his arm and looked into the dugout. That got the Braves training staff out and after a brief mound conference Floyd left the game. Replays of Floyd on the mound talking to the trainers showed a quarter-sized lump at the back of his elbow. Floyd was only making his ninth start after coming back from Tommy John surgery. Early reports are that Floyd broke the tip of his ulna bone, so he is likely to be sidelined for some time.
Anthony Varvaro came in from the Braves bullpen to replace Floyd. The Nationals had no better luck pushing across runs despite the pitching change. Werth doubled, but Adam LaRoche, Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond all grounded out in succession to strand Werth at second.
Zimmermann completed seven innings, only giving up two runs on seven hits and walking one. That’s a quality start. Jerry Blevins came in to start the eighth inning because of the succession of left handed hitters the Braves had coming up in the eighth. Blevins couldn’t handle them. Freeman doubled to lead off the inning and Gattis singled to push Freeman to third. With runners on the corners and nobody out, Blevins induced a shallow flyout from Heyward that was not deep enough to score Freeman. Johnson then drove in his third run of the game, hitting a ball up the middle that hit Blevins and bounced off him to get into left and score Freeman. Jordan Schafer pinch hit and grounded into a fielder’s choice with Johnson out at second.
Matt Williams called on Aaron Barrett to get the Nats out of the top of the eighth, which he did. Barrett allowed Schafer to steal second, walked Simmons on four pitches, but got pinch hitter Justin Upton to ground out to end the inning.
The Nationals could not get a baserunner against Jordan Walden in the eighth, which left he Nats three runs short and facing Craig Kimbrel in the ninth. After Denard Span hit a fly ball to the outfield for the first out, Anthony Rendon drew a walk. The Nats had a brief moment of hope before both Werth and LaRoche struck out to end the inning and the game.
Next Game: The Nationals face the Braves again Friday, June 20th at 7:05 EST at Nationals Park to continue the series. Stephen Strasburg (6-5, 3.05 ERA) will start for the Nationals and Mike Minor (2-4, 4.42 ERA) will start for the Braves. Don’t let the numbers fool you. Strasburg traditionally does not pitch well against the Braves, and Minor’s ERA was inflated in a game against the Rockies at Coors Field where he gave up eight runs and the Braves still won the game.