Atlanta Braves' Playoff Hopes Still Alive, Courtesy of Washington's Nationals. Braves win, 11-5.

• Any hope of a bottom of the ninth inning comeback walk-off win in this afternoon's rain-soaked affair with Atlanta ended in the top of the final frame when DC closer Mike MacDougal, late-inning lefty Ron Villone and Logan Kensing combined to allow 5 runs on 6 hits to turn a two-run game into an 11-4 Braves' blowout. The Nationals rallied for a run in the bottom of the ninth which would have made it a one-run game, but instead they lose for the 102nd time this season when Braves' Manager Bobby Cox calls on his closer, Rafael Soriano, to get the final out and Soriano strikes out Mike Morse to end the second of three for ATL in DC. 

• DC starter Garrett Mock went just 5.0 innings on Saturday, giving up 7 hits, 4 walks and 6 runs, 4 earned, against ATL right-hander Tommy Hanson, who improved to (W, 11-4) with a 7.0 inning outing in which he allowed just 4 hits, 1 HR and 4 ER. Hanson walked 1 and K'd 7 before he was replaced on the mound by Mike Gonzalez, who pitched a scoreless eighth. Eric O'Flaherty gave up a walk, 3 hits and one earned run and recorded two outs, before Rafael Soriano wrapped it up to complete the ninth. 

• E, 136, 137, 138. The Braves didn't need any help in their fifth-straight win, but the Nationals gave it to them anyway with Pete Orr and Elijah Dukes committing errors that led directly to runs. E: 136 - Pete Orr's 4th error of 2009 occured in the first, after a one-out RBI single by Brian McCann got Atlanta out to an early 1-0 lead. Garrett Mock struck Garrett Anderson out, but gave up a two-out, two-run single to Yunel Escobar that made it 2-0. Mock decided to give left-hander Adam LaRoche the intentionals to bring Matt Diaz up. Diaz hit a dribbler toward third, Pete Orr (aka Not Ryan Zimmerman) charged and tried to make a quick play but held up mid-throw and ended up bouncing the ball off his own thigh and across the infield grass as two more scored. OUTCOME: 4-0 Atlanta lead. E: 137 -... 

• E 136 and 137 - After The JUMP...PLUS: What Did I Learn This Weekend?

• E: 137: Top of the second, Braves' infielder Martin Prado unloads on a 1-0 fastball from Mock and lines it off the left field wall for a one-out double. Chipper Jones steps up, and lines a first-pitch change to right, but right at Elijah Duk-- Dukes misses it, and the ball bounces off his leg and rolls away, OUTCOME: Prado scores, 5-0 Atlanta. Dukes commits his 7th error of 2009. E: 138 - Top of the ninth, ATL SS Yunel Escobar stands on second after having doubled in the Braves' 10th run. Adam LaRoche shoots a low liner to right and it bounces in front of a charging Elijah Dukes, who misjudges the skip off the wet grass and has it go by him allowing Escobar to score easily from second. LaRoche takes second. OUTCOME: 11-4 Atlanta. 

• What Did I Learn This Weekend?

This was my last chance this year to catch the Washington Nationals live, so I took two days off work and made the drive down to DC. As I prepare to leave the nation's capital, however, my feelings are mixed. There's no one turning out at the games anymore. The majority of the fans there the last two games were sporting Braves' gear, and there was a noticeable (and, yes, still slightly insensitive) tomahawk chop chant to be heard each time something went right for Atlanta, but who can blame Washington fans for not turning out to watch a 100+ loss team? I'd almost say that the same sort of apathy which overtook the Montreal Expos' fans in the years preceding their departure had set in...Almost...but what has me thinking there is hope is what I heard from the writers and friends I've made amongst the DC Faithful, who are no less interested, though maybe slightly less enthusiastic, about what the future holds for the Washington Nationals...Here are the TOP 3: Things I Learned

1) Everyone is concerned about Jesus Flores. I'm not going to say exactly how, but I had the opportunity to see Mr. Flores after Friday night's game, and after seeing his arm in a sling and hearing him talking about beginning yet more rehab on his injured right shoulder, all those of us there could think about was how the Nationals' 24-year-old catcher will recover. Flores, a Rule 5 pick who started the '07 campaign on the roster out of necessity, and appeared in a part-time role most of the year, missed considerable time last season after suffering a left ankle sprain on a play at the plate involving Chase Utley, and now the '09 season will end with Flores having appeared in just 29 games. The good news is that in the small sample size Flores provided this year, he showed that he still had it, hitting .301 with 3 doubles, 2 triples and 4 HR's while collecting 15 RBI's in 93 AB's over which he posted a .371 OBP with a .505 SLG and an .877 OPS...What will Flores be like when he returns? Will he pick up where he left off? And how much has it hurt him to miss so much time at this important stage of his development?

2) There is a lot of leftover memorabilia lying around? I'm not going to say who did it, he can identify himself if he chooses, but someone everyone here at Federal Baseball is familiar with turned up in a #22 John Patterson jersey this weekend courtesy of the Nationals' end of the year sales? Game used baseballs, signed jerseys from players past, Inaugural year scorecards, someone working for the Nationals must have cleaned out a closet, so if you're one of those people who will take anything and everything that has to do with the Nationals, I'd suggest making your way to Nationals Park in the next few days, cause they're pretty much giving it away. 

3) Not everyone is sure about drafting Bryce Harper #1 overall next year? There weren't too many people who thought the Nationals should pass on Stephen Strasburg, but when it comes to Bryce Harper, a 16-year-old catcher, who's made his name putting up gaudy numbers in high school, there is some debate? When would you expect a catcher who'll turn 17 in a few weeks to be able to compete in the Majors? If Strasburg just got $15 million+, how much will Harper (and inevitably Boras) want? Will the Nationals be willing to set a new standard in back to back drafts? Will Harper still be the consensus #1 next June? Will he actually be eligible for the 2010 draft? 

BONUS: What Did I Learn?

4) Everyone's excited about AFL!!! Keep your playoffs, it's the Arizona Fall League DC fans are waiting for...

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