Stephen Strasburg and Mike Minor were the top right and left-hander, respectively, selected in the 2009 MLB Draft, with Strasburg going no.1 overall to the Washington Nationals and Minor going 7th to the Atlanta Braves. As the Nats' game notes for tonight's matchup pointed out, the starters were also in the Top 10 in ERA so far this season before the game, with Strasburg (2.83) and Minor (2.87) currently eight and ninth, respectively, in the majors.
The two starters went head-to-head twelve days back in the nation's capital with Strasburg holding the Braves to two runs on five hits in seven innings of work in which he struck out nine and Minor limiting the Nats' hitters to two runs on eight hits in six innings in what ended up a 3-2 Braves' win. Strasburg followed up on that outing with a complete game shutout over the Philadelphia Phillies in which he struck out 10 batters. Minor gave up six hits and four runs in seven innings on the mound in his last start, a 9-4 win over the Miami Marlins.
Tonight, in Atlanta, Georgia's Turner Field, the two went at it again. Washington was shorthanded with Bryce Harper scratched after he was hit by two pitches in Friday's series opener with the Braves. Harper's tricep was bruised after Luis Avilan hit him on the back of his arm four innings after starter Alex Wood had plunked the Nats' 20-year-old outfielder with a first pitch curve in the fourth.
With Harper out, Denard Span was inserted at the top of the lineup, and he led off with an infield single off Mike Minor in the Nationals' first. Span was running when Anthony Rendon took ball four from Minor for a walk that put two runners on in front of Ryan Zimmerman. Minor got the first out of the inning with a 2-2 change that got Zimmerman swinging, but issued his second walk of the inning to Jayson Werth on his 28th pitch to load the bases with one out. Nats' shortstop Ian Desmond grounded back to the mound, allowing Minor to come home for a force and out no.2, but Wilson Ramos hit a line drive to left to drive in two and give his starter an early lead. 2-0 Nationals after a half. 34-pitch inning for Minor.
Stephen Strasburg took the mound with a streak of eleven scoreless innings of work going back through his complete game against the Phillies to the last start against Atlanta when he worked two scoreless after giving up one of the two runs he surrendered that night in the fifth inning. That scoreless innings streak ended in the first at bat of tonight's game when Jason Heyward sent a first-pitch fastball screaming out to right for a no-doubter of a line drive home run that cut the Nats' lead in half. 2-1 Nationals. Strasburg hit Justin Upton in the backside with the next pitch he threw. No drama ensued as the Braves' outfielder took his base. Strasburg struck Freddie Freeman out and after a Brian McCann single, got an inning-ending 4-6-3 DP on his 19th pitch.
Strasburg bunted Scott Hairston over to second/gave up an out after the Nationals' left fielder hit a line drive single to start the Nats' second. Denard Span battled for 10 pitches before striking out. Anthony Rendon stepped in with two down and a runner on second and took his second walk of the night. Ryan Zimmerman, who struck out with two on and no one out in the first, worked the count full and walked to load the bases and push Minor up to 62 pitches. Jayson Werth fell behind 0-2 quickly, but lined a 1-2 fastball to center for a two-run single that made it 4-1 Nationals and knocked Minor out. 24 for 46 in August for Werth. Anthony Varvaro came on and got the third out.
As Washington's pregame notes mentioned, coming into tonight's game, Stephen Strasburg was 22-2 in 30 career starts in which he's been provided with three or more runs of support on the mound. Strasburg walked Jordan Schafer in the first at bat of the Braves' second, then threw three straight wild pitches, the second and third behind Andrelton Simmons, bringing Schafer around to score and getting himself and manager Davey Johnson tossed in the process. Tanner Roark took over on the mound and threw ball four to Simmons before walking Paul Janish as well. Three outs later, however, Roark finished the inning with only the run Strasburg let in coming across. 4-2 Nationals.
Tyler Moore singled with one down in the top of the third, but Anthony Varvaro completed a scoreless inning of work. Roark gave up a one-out single by Brian McCann in the Braves' third, but got an inning-ending 6-4-3 DP out of Chris Johnson for six outs in relief of Strasburg on 27 pitches. Denard Span and Anthony Rendon singled to start the fourth, but Varvaro got three straight outs to strand both runners, striking Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth out before a groundout to first by Ian Desmond. Still 4-2 Nats. Tanner Roark needed 14 pitches to retire the Braves in order in the bottom of the inning.
Tyler Moore was 2 for 3 tonight after singling to left on a 3-1 fastball from Anthony Varvaro in the fifth, but Scott Hairston popped out for the second out of the frame and Tanner Roark... doubled? RBI double to left and over Justin Upton's head for Roark's first MLB hit. Moore scored to make it 5-2 Nationals and Roark retook the mound in the bottom of the inning and retired the Braves in order in a 10-pitch frame, getting Jason Heyward and Justin Upton looking after a groundout to short by B.J. Upton. 51 pitches in four scoreless for Roark.
Luis Ayala gave up a two-out double by Jayson Werth in the Nationals' sixth, and Ian Desmond took a 2-2 fastball to right for an opposite field RBI single that made it 6-2 Nats after five and a half. Fernando Abad took over in the bottom of the inning and gave up a leadoff single by Freddie Freeman. Brian McCann was 3 for 3 tonight when he took a hanging 1-2 curve to right for a two-run home run that made it a two run game. 6-4 Nationals. Abad gave up a two-out walk to Andrelton Simmons to bring the tying run to the plate, but popped Paul Janish up to end the sixth.
Scott Downs set the Nationals down in order in the top of the seventh to keep it a two-run game in Turner Field. Drew Storen threw a 3-2 fastball by Joey Terdoslavich for the first out of the Braves' seventh. Jason Heyward took a backdoor slider that appeared outside for a called strike three and out no.2. Justin Upton worked the count full but K'd swinging on a 93 mph 2-2 fastball to end the seventh.
Braves' right-hander Jordan Walden retired Anthony Rendon for the first out of the eighth, but Ryan Zimmerman stepped in next and -- THE KIDS CALL HIM ZIM!! THE KIDS CALL HIM ZIM!!! Ryan Zimmerman hit his 14th home run of 2013 out to right-center on a 2-1 fastball from Walden to make it a 7-4 Nationals' lead after seven and a half in Turner Field. Tyler Clippard took the mound in the bottom of the eighth and gave up a solo home run to center by Freddie Freeman, who crushed an 0-1 slider to make it a 7-5 game. HR to center for Freeman. Clippard got three quick outs after the blast and the Nationals took a 7-5 lead to the ninth.
David Carpenter struck Roger Bernadina out for the first out of the Nationals' ninth. Scott Hairston got himself ejected arguing a low third strike call with Marvin Hudson. Adam LaRoche K'd swinging to end the top of the inning. Cue his music.
"Pitch it, Soriano! Pitch it, Soriano! Strike him out, Soriano! Strike him out, Soriano!" Rafael Soriano came on looking for save no. 32 of 2013. Andrelton Simmons popped out to third. ONE! Gerald Laird worked the count full and walked on a high 3-2 fastball. Evan Gattis stepped in as the pinch hitter and tying run and grounded into a force at second. TWO!! Jason Heyward stepped in with one and two out and hit a two-run home run to right-center field that tied it up at 7-7 after nine in Turner Field. 6th blown save for Soriano. On to extras.
Craig Kimbrel retired the Nationals in order in the top of the tenth. Ian Krol came on for the bottom of the inning after giving up the game-winner last night. Freddie Freeman was first-pitch swinging and flew out to Denard Span in center field. Brian McCann popped up to the infield. Chris Johnson reached safely on a sharp ground ball to short that Ian Desmond got to but bobbled. Jordan Schafer stepped in next and K'd looking to end the bottom of the tenth.
Luis Avilan took over for the Braves in the eleventh, facing Bryce Harper of course. Harper grounded out to second to start the second extra inning. Ian Desmond lined out to right. Wilson Ramos K'd swinging. Ian Krol came back out for the eleventh against Andrelton Simmons, went to a full count and walked the leadoff runner. Luis Avilan got a bunt down/gave up an out that moved Simmons to second. Phil Gosselin, the Braves' 24-year-old rookie, stepped in next in his first MLB plate appearance and popped up to shallow right field for out no.2. Jason Heyward? Groundout to first. On to the twelfth...
Luis Avilan got a weak liner to short from Roger Bernadina. Chad Tracy K'd swinging. Adam LaRoche K'd swinging to end the top of the inning. Craig Stammen took over for the Nationals. Justin Upton flew out to center to start the frame. Freddie Freeman grounded to short. Ian Desmond was deep in the hole when he got to it, and his throw was high, but Adam LaRoche made the catch and tagged the runner for out no.2. Brian McCann's fly to center ended the twelfth.
Kris Medlen took the mound for the Braves in the thirteenth inning. Denard Span grounded to second to start the frame. Anthony Rendon grounded to third. Ryan Zimmerman? Please? Opposite field single! Bryce Harper? Swinging K. 7-7 game after twelve and a half. Craig Stammen came back out for his second inning of work and struck Chris Johnson out on three pitches. Jordan Schafer took a full-count fastball outside for ball four and a one-out walk. Andrelton Simmons worked the count full as well, but K'd swinging as Schafer stole second. Kris Medlen stepped in to hit, but K'd swinging to end the thirteenth.
Ian Desmond led off in the top of the fourtheenth with a groundout to second. Wilson Ramos lined to right off Medlen for a one-out single. Roger Bernadina walked with one down, taking a 3-2 change for a ball to put two runners on, but Craig Stammen grounded into an inning 6-3 DP. 7-7 after thirteen and a half. Craig Stammen came back out and carved Philip Gosselin up for a swinging K and out no.1 of the Braves' fourteenth. Jason Heyward grounded out to short for out no.2. Justin Upton K'd swinging at Craig Stammen's 55th pitch. 3.0 scoreless for the Nats' right-handed reliever. 7-7 after fourteen innings.
Adam LaRoche led off in the fifteenth inning... with a solo home run to right!! 8-7 Nationals on LaRoche's 18th. Denard Span singled in the next at bat, but was picked off first. Anthony Rendon lined out to short. Ryan Zimmerman K'd swinging... Dan Haren came on for the save. Freddie Freeman flew out to left for the first out of the Braves' fifteenth. Brian McCann K'd looking. Chris Johnson fell behind 1-2 and got to a 2-2 count... before singling to center on a 2-2 cutter. Jordan Schafer went to a 2-2 count as well and K'd swinging to end it. Ballgame. Finally. Nats win, 8-7 final.
Nationals now 60-62