Washington Nationals Drop Sixth Straight To Start Season, Atlanta Braves Sweep With 8-5 Win Over DC.

The Washington Nationals are on their way back to the nation's capital for tomorrow's home opener against the defending World Series' Champion Philadelphia Phillies...with an 0-6 record, having been swept in each of the first two series of 2009 after losing 8-5 to Atlanta this afternoon. 

The Washington Nationals have lost the first six games of the 2009 in most convincing fashion. For a while today it looked like things might be going the Nationals' way. They didn't score at all in the first three frames, but Nationals' starter Scott Olsen had two outs in the fourth and was in control on the mound...when he issued a two-out walk to Brian McCann. Adam Dunn declined to hold McCann at first and the big catcher promptly, and easily stole second. Olsen even got ahead of the next batter, Matt Diaz, but a 1-2 fastball ended up in center field and McCann came around to score the first run of the game.  Jeff Francoeur tripled in the second, 2-0 and Martin Prado singled in the third run to put Atlanta was up 3-0 on a two-out walk and three two-out hits. 

A walk and a single off Braves' righty Jair Jurrjens set Elijah Dukes up with two runners, both of whom scored on Dukes' RBI double to center, 3-2 Braves, and Dukes scored when Ryan Zimmerman's sharp grounder got by Martin Prado at first, to tie it up at 3-3. 

The Braves' response was to score two more in the home half of the frame. 5-3 Atlanta. The Nationals score a run in the sixth on an RBI single by Dukes, and the Braves score two in the bottom of the seventh to go ahead 7-4. The Nationals get one in the top of the eighth, 7-5, and the Braves get another triple from Francoeur and a pinch hit single from Casey Kotchman to make it 8-5...

Scott Olsen's Line: (L, 0-2), 14.63 ERA, 6 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 3 K's, 82 pitches, 84 strikes, 6 GO, 6 FO, 2 PB (ed. note - "I'm looking at you, Bard!")

Have You Heard About This Dukes Kid?

Elijah Dukes got the Federal Baseball.com approved start in center this afternoon, and a few hits, RBI's and sliding catches later, he was looking to many of the DC Faithful like the starting center fielder we've all been waiting for...Dukes finished the day 3 for 5 with a double, 3 RBI's and a .375 AVG so far this season, and in just five games he's got a .444 OBP and a .438 SLG. (Lastings Milledge, Dukes' competition in center: 6 G, 19 AB's, 1 RBI, 9 K's, .158 AVG, .238 OBP, .158 SLG)...So...if I hadn't seen Dukes' favoring his injured groin all afternoon, I'd say Lastings Milledge really had something to worry about...

Andruw Jones II...

Jordan Schafer may have gone 0 for 4 today, but he more than made up for it with his glove, and the 22-year-old rookie center fielder finishes the 3-game series against the Nationals with 2 doubles, 2 HR's, 3 RBI's and a .348 AVG on the year, after going 2 for 5 in the first game of the series, and 3 for 4 Saturday night. A 3rd Round pick by Atlanta in 2005, Schafer made the jump from Double-A Missouri this season, winning the starting job with a strong Spring. Braves' Manager Bobby Cox described Schafer as a "dynamite center fielder" in an article by MLB.com writer Jon Cooper entitled, "Schafer set to start as Braves set roster", which also quoted Atlanta GM Fran Wren, who said Schafer, "...played a tremendous defense" this Spring, and Mr. Wren believes:

"...He'll be one of the better defensive center fielders right away. I think he's got the potential to drive balls all over the field, and I think that's one of the things that helped him stand out -- his ability to hit the ball to all fields and hit with power. Just all-around, his game was impressive this spring."

The HOME OPENER???

The Nationals come back to DC for tomorrow's home opener with the Philadelphia Phillies, who have won just two of their first five, and the Phillies are throwing Jamie Moyer, who was (3-0) in 5 starts against DC last season, but got hit hard the last time he faced Washington, giving up 11 hits, 3 doubles, 3 HR's, and 9 ER's in just 4.0 IP in his last start of the Spring...Washington throws Daniel Cabre...Oh, man...

Seriously?

Washington Post writer Chico Harlan had a post up at the Nationals Journal entitled, "Tickets Still Available For Opening Day"...Seriously? The Nationals can't even sell out the home opener? Please not Las Vegas...

(ed. note - "See you at Nationals Park Tomorrow?")

Braves win, 8-5 Final. 

For The Completists, Full Game Report After The Jump...

Washington Nationals at Atlanta Braves - Game 6 of 162. 

The Washington Nationals go down in order to Atlanta righty Jair Jurrjens in the first, Cristian Guzman grounds to short, Elijah Dukes and Ryan Zimmerman fly to right, and DC lefty Scott Olsen in on the mound against Atlanta in the mid-day summer sunshine in Georgia. Omar Infante leads off for Atlanta with a line drive single in front of Elijah Dukes in center. Yunel Escobar grounds to third, Ryan Zimmerman to Willie Harris at second, to Adam Dunn at first, double play. Scott Olsen pitches around Chipper Jones. Brian McCann grounds to Willie Harris, who fields and throws to end the first. 

Jair Jurrjens starts the second against Adam Dunn. Dunn walks on a full count pitch outside. Austin Kearns rips a grounder to second, Omar Infante to Yunel Escobar to Martin Prado at first, double play. Josh Willingham pops out to second, Jurrjens through two...Scott Olsen abuses Matt Diaz with three straight fastballs. Jeff Francoeur flies out to Willingham in left. Martin Prado flies out to Dukes in center for the final out of the second. 

 

Willie Harris singles to center moving Josh Bard, who walked to start the frame, into scoring position at second. Scott Olsen actually gets down a successful sac bunt, a rarity for the Nationals' pitchers. Cristian Guzman flies out unproductively to Jordan Schafer in center. Elijah Dukes smacks a 2-2 pitch out to second to end the DC third...Jordan Schafer goes down 0-2 quickly and chases a slider across the plate. Alberto Gonzalez, in for an injured Willie Harris, catches a line drive off  Jair Jurrjens’ bat. Omar Infante flies to right, Olsen through three scoreless.

 

Jordan Schafer catches a Zimmerman fly just shy of the warning track in center. Adam Dunn lines to center for a single. Austin Kearns pops out high above short. Josh Willingham lifts one into the wind, and Diaz closes his glove on the Nationals’ fourth...Ryan Zimmerman throws out Yunel Escobar on a weak-a$$ grounder. Scott Olsen defies history to get Chipper Jones looking. Brian McCann walks with two down and steals second off Olsen. Matt Diaz sends a dribbler up the middle and it gets through, McCann scores from second, 1-0 Braves. Jeff Francoeur rips a triple down the line in right...and fair...Diaz scores, 2-0 ATL. Martin Prado singles to right. 3-0 Braves. Jordan Schafer grounds to second, and Prado inteferes with the play and is called out to finally end the fourth.

 

Josh Bard strokes a single to right for a leadoff single. Alberto Gonzalez flies out to right field. Scott Olsen gets down a sac bunt. Cristian Guzman slaps a single through second, Bard holds at third as Francoeur throws in. Elijah Dukes tears the cover off on a double to center and over Jordan Schafer’s head, two runs score, 3-2 Braves. Zimmerman’s grounder bounces off Prado at first, Dukes scores, 3-3 ballgame. Adam Dunn walks with two down. Kearns walks. Jurrjens gets Wilingham looking to end the top of the fifth...3-3 ballgame...Jair Jurrjens flies out to right field. Omar Infante checks his swing and walks with one down. Yunel Escobar flies out to Kearns in right field. Omar Infante takes second on a pitch that gets by Josh Bard. Chipper Jones lines to left, Josh Willingham comes up throwing, but Bard can’t handle it, Infante scores, 4-3 Braves. Brian McCann throws the bat at the ball and singles to center, 5-3 Atlanta. Diaz grounds out to end the inning.

 

Josh Bard vs Jurrjens. Fly ball to center, one down. Alberto Gonzalez walks with one down. Lastings Milledge hits for Olsen. Jurrjens is done. Jeff Bennett is on in relief. Milledge drills a single up the middle of the infield. Cristian Guzman gets called out on strikes. Elijah Dukes singles to left, Diaz throws in quickly, Alberto Gonzalez slides in...under the tag, 5-4 Braves. Ryan Zimmerman K’s swinging over a two-strike sinker to end the top of the sixth...Steven Shell gets a ground out from Jeff Francoeur to start the bottom of the frame. Guzman backhands and throws out Martin Prado. Shell gets Jordan Schafer swinging to end the sixth.

 

Adam Dunn goes to left with a line drive single to start the seventh. Austin Kearns grounds to first, Prado to Escobar at second and back, double play. Chipper Jones can’t get a hold of Josh Willingham’s grounder, the Hammer’s on. Josh Bard flies out to left...Greg Notron flies out to start the home half of the seventh. Omar Infante doubles over Elijah Dukes in center. Yunel Escobar bounces one off the wall in left, Infante scores, 6-4 Braves. Shell done. Saul “Sa-ool” Rivera comes on, Josh Bard lets an outside pitch get by him. Escobar takes third. Chipper Jones sneaks a grounder by a pulled in Guzman at short, Escobar scores, 7-4 Braves. 

 

Alberto Gonzalez grounds out to short. Jesus Flores takes a one out walk in a pinch hit appearance. Cristian Guzman puts one through the pitcher, Eric O’Flaherty’s wickets. Buddy Carlyle’s on in relief. Jordan Schafer speeds over to rob Elijah Dukes on a tweener. Ryan Zimmerman singles to center, Flores scores, 7-5 ATL.  Adam Dunn swings through a two-strike fastball, 7-5 after seven and a half...Wil Ledezma takes the ball in the eighth. Matt Diaz goes down swinging. Francoeur flies out to righ...Austin Kearns loses it in the sun and Frenchy gets a triple. Casey Kotchman hits a pinch hit single, 8-5 Atlanta. Ledezma gets Jordan Schafer swinging and audibly cursing. Fly ball to short center off Kelly Johnson’s bat...Elijah “Super” Dukes makes a slick sliding catch in center and ends the eighth...

 

Rafael Soriano vs Kearns. Austin Kearns goes down swinging. Jordan Schafer robs Willingham at the wall. Josh Bard works the count full and...watches strike three all the way in. Braves win, 8-5 final.

 

Nationals now 0-6. 

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