Home Opener Top 5:
5. Quick Recap: Jordan Zimmermann, recovered from flu-like symptoms which led to him being scratched from Thursday's scheduled start, took the mound in from of 42,834 fans in Nationals Park this afternoon for the home opener at exactly 1:08 pm EDT and threw the first pitch on time two minutes later.
At home in the nation's capital last season, the 27-year-old, '07 2nd Round pick was dominant, going (12-3) in 18 starts, posting a 2.61 ERA, a 3.11 FIP, 25 walks (1.86 BB/9) and 89 Ks (6.64 K/9) in 120 2/3 IP over which he held opposing hitters to a .220/.264/.335 line.
This afternoon in D.C., Zimmermann started with four scoreless on 60 pitches, but two pitches into the fifth, the Braves took a 1-0 lead when Evan Gattis flat crushed an 0-1 fastball, sending a screaming liner over the left field bullpen and five-or-six rows back into the Nationals Park stands for a solo blast and a 1-0 Braves' lead.
Ian Desmond appeared to hit an inside-the-park home run on a line drive to left on the first pitch of the fifth, but it got stuck in the outfield wall somehow leaving Justin Upton with no way to play it. (Well, sort of, when it wasn't called dead, he got it out pretty easily.) The umpires took a long look and reversed the call, saying it was unplayable (aka stuck in the wall). The Nationals Park crowd, which was chanting, "Home run," was predictably unhappy with the reversal. Still 1-0 Braves.
Tyler Clippard walked the first batter he faced in the top of the eighth, putting Jason Heyward on to start the inning, and a single by Freddie Freeman sent Heyward around to third before a sac fly by Chris Johnson brought him in to put the Braves up 2-1 after seven and a half.
The Nationals threatened in the eighth, but came up empty and the Braves took the home opener, 2-1.
1st: The first out of the year in Nationals Park came on the first pitch to Braves' right fielder Jason Heyward, who sliced a fly ball to left field that Bryce Harper tracked down in the corner. Jordan Zimmermann threw a 94 mph 2-2 fastball by B.J. Upton for out no.2, then popped Freddie Freeman up to end a quick, 10-pitch, 1-2-3 first inning against the defending NL East Champs.
2nd: Zimmermann threw an 0-2 fastball up in the zone to Braves' third baseman Chris Johnson to get a sharp grounder to first that Adam LaRoche handled for the fourth straight out to start today's game. An 87 mph slider to Justin Upton put the ATL outfielder behind 1-2, and a 95 mph 2-2 heater up high got him swinging for out no.2 of the second and K no.2 in 1 2/3 IP by the Nats' right-hander. Dan Uggla lined a single to left on the first pitch he saw, breaking up Zimmermann's nascent no-hit bid, but the Nationals' starter got up 1-2 on Evan Gattis and threw a slider off the plate that the hard-hitting catcher chased for out no.3 of the second and K no.3 of the game. 13-pitch second for Zimmermann, 23 pitches overall after two.
3rd: Andrelton Simmons hit a 93 mph 1-1 fastball to Denard Span in deep center to start the third. Zimmermann threw a cruel 0-2 slider by the opposing pitcher, David Hale, for his fourth K of the game, and the second out of the Braves' third, but he hit Jason Heyward with a 1-2 slider inside that hit the top of Heyward's foot instead of his back heel. B.J. Upton fell behind 0-2 quickly, swinging through a slider and then a fastball up high, before grounding into a force at second on a 1-2 slider that end a 16-pitch inning that left Zimmermann at 39 total after three.
4th: Freddie Freeman lined a 2-0 fastball to right, over a leaping Anthony Rendon for a leadoff single in the Braves' fourth. Chris Johnson K'd swinging over an 0-2 curve for out no.1 of the fourth and K no.5 for Zimmermann. Justin Upton missed a 93 mph 1-1 fastball to fall behind in the next at bat, but he fouled two off and spit on an 0-2 curve low in the zone, before chasing a 2-2 slider outside off the plate for a swinging K (no.6 for Zimmermann) and out no.2 of the fourth. Dan Uggla stepped in with a runner on and two down and worked the count full, taking a 2-2 slider off the outside edge, fouled off a fastball, then took a 3-2 breaking ball for a called strike three he thought was ball four. Home plate umpire Corey Blaser disagreed. 7 Ks in four scoreless. 21-pitch inning, 60 overall after four.
5th: Evan Gattis took a 92 mph 0-1 fastball to left and over the visitor's bullpen for a solo home run in the first at bat of the fifth. 1-0 Braves. HR no.1 of 2014 for Gattis. Andrelton Simmons sent a dribbler back up the middle on an 0-2 fastball, connecting for the Braves' fourth hit off of Zimmermann, but the opposing pitcher fouled off an 0-2 pitch while trying to bunt, resulting in the the first out of the frame. Simmons tried to advance himself with Jason Heyward at the plate, but Nats' catcher Jose Lobaton threw a strike to second where Ian Desmond applied the tag. After Heyward took a two-out walk, B.J. Upton fell behind 0-2 quickly. Heyward stole second on a pitch Lobaton bobbled, but a 2-2 slider outside got Upton swinging to end the fifth with the 9th K of the day for the Nationals' starter. 21-pitch inning, 81 total through five.
Zimmermann's Line: 5.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 HR, 9 Ks, 81 P, 58 S, 2/2 GO/FO
3. Get To Know A Brave: David Hale, 26, and an Atlanta Braves' '09 3rd Round pick, made his MLB debut last September, after five seasons and 471 innings in the minor leagues. Hale made two starts for the Braves last season, giving up 11 hits, one walk and one earned run in 11 IP over which he had an 0.82 ERA.
His third major league start came this afternoon in Nationals Park.
Hale gave up three hits in the first two innings, but completed two scoreless on 25 pitches.
A 19-pitch, 1-2-3 third had Hale neck-and-neck with Jordan Zimmermann at 44 pitches to Zimmermann's 39 through three scoreless in which he allowed just three hits.
Hale got some help from his defense in the fourth. Adam LaRoche walked with one down and tried to score when Ryan Zimmerman lined a double off the left field wall in the next at bat, but Justin Upton came up throwing, hit Andrelton Simmons and the relayed throw beat the slow-footed Nats' first baseman home. Evan Gattis applied the tag for the second out of what ended up a scoreless inning. Aggressive, but not a great send by 3B Coach Bob Henley, especially with the talk of getting Harper up in RBI opportunities. 2nd/3rd, 1 out would have been a good opportunity.
Ian Desmond took the first pitch of the Nats' fifth from Hale to left field on a line drive that got stuck in the outfield wall somehow, allowing him to round the bases for what appeared to be an inside-the-park home run, but the call was reversed and Desmond was given a double instead and was caught stealing in the next at bat.
Hale left the game after five, replaced on the mound by RHP Gus Schlosser.
Hale's line: 5.0 IP, 6 H 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 Ks, 73 P, 48 S, 5/1 GO/FO.
2. Harper, Harper, Harper: Matt Williams addressed some of the chatter about Bryce Harper's spot in the order and his relatively slow start to the season (2 for 13, 6 Ks) before this afternoon's game. Harper hit in the two, five and six spots in the first three games in New York, and was back in the six-hole today. Williams said he's going to be moving around, but it doesn't necessarily mean anything.
"Bryce's timing is a tick off right now," Williams said. "So we put him in the two-hole yesterday and I think his swing is coming. He hit a couple of balls hard his last couple of times up yesterday. Again, at any point during the course of a season, Bryce can get hot. And so, today's opportunity for him, we hope, is multiple men in scoring position. And he's had an opportunity whether it's five or six. There's a lot that goes into it that I'm not at liberty to share at this point, but he's fine. He'll be fine and he'll drive in the big runs for us."
As for Harper hitting sixth again today, Williams said it wasn't any sort of reaction to how Harper's started.
"It doesn't mean anything that Bryce hits sixth," he said. "It doesn't mean that he's not a fantastic player. It means the same thing when he was hitting second yesterday. So, it's just a question of how we want to attack today's game."
Harper singled in his first at bat in Nationals Park this season, lining a first-pitch fastball from Hale back up the middle, but got picked off first and tagged out in a rundown.
The second time up today, Harper stepped in with Ryan Zimmerman on third and two out in the fourth after Zimmerman doubled to left and off the Under Armour sign on the left field wall, sending Adam LaRoche (who walked with one down) around the bases only to get thrown out at home. Harper tried to check his swing on a 2-2 in curve in the dirt, but K'd swinging to end the home-half of the fourth, slamming his helmet down emphatically after strike three was called.
Harper's third at bat of the day came in the sixth, when he grounded out to third, leaving him 0 for 3.
The fourth time up, there were runners on first and second with two out after a single by Anthony Rendon, a walk by Jayson Werth and back-to-back Ks by Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman. Harper spit on a 1-2 slider from David Carpenter, took a fastball outside to work the count full, bringing the crowd to its feet and took a called strike three on a cut-back, two-seam fastball inside. 0 for 4.
1. Bullpen Battle: Braves' third baseman Chris Johnson doubled to left with one down in the sixth after Craig Stammen took over on the mound but was stranded at second after scoreless inning of work by the Nats' right-hander.
Gus Schlosser, a 25-year-old, Braves' 2011 17th Round pick took over for David Hale in the sixth and immediately surrenede a single to center by Anthony Rendon. A wild pitch to Jayson Werth allowed Rendon to take second, and a walk to Werth put two on in front of Adam LaRoche. Werth slid in hard at second to break up any chance of a double play on LaRoche's grounder to second, so Ryan Zimmerman stepped in with runners on the corners and one down and hit a game-tying sac fly to center to bring Rendon in and tie it up at 1-1.
Craig Stammen threw two scoreless on 14 pitches. Jose Lobaton doubled off Braves' right-hander Jordan Walden with one down in the seventh, but was stranded at second. Tyler Clippard took over in the top of the eighth, issuing a leadoff walk to Jason Heyward, but he struck B.J. Upton out with a 1-2 fastball, but gave up a one-out single to right by Freddie Freeman that sent Heyward around to third and he scored on a sac fly to right by Chris Johnson. 2-1 Braves after seven and a half.
Anthony Rendon took a first-pitch fastball from Braves' right-hander David Carpenter to right for a leadoff single in the home-half of the eighth. Jayson Werth walked in the next at bat, bringing Adam LaRoche up with two on and no one out, the big-swinging first baseman missed a 2-2 fastball up in the zone for an unproductive out no.1. Ryan Zimmerman K'd swinging through a 95 mph 0-2 fastball for an unproductive out no.2. And Bryce Harper K'd looking at a 3-2 two-seamer that broke back in late for a called strike three. Still 2-1 Braves.
Aaron Barrett retired the Braves in order in his first inning of work in Nationals Park.
Nationals now 3-1.