Atlanta Braves' lefty Alex Wood was dominating Washington Nationals' hitters. With the way the weekend series with the defending NL East champs was going, there was a sense of doom in Nationals Park when the Braves rallied to tie things up at 1-1 in the sixth. Before Ian Desmond stepped to the plate to start the bottom of the seventh inning, Wood had retired 18 of 19 batters after the first three Nationals of the game reached base. Then... BOOM!
Desmond took a first-pitch fastball to left field and almost onto the center field concourse for a 421 ft blast (check out the path here). Desmond's second home run of the year gave the Nats a 2-1 lead and helped them take the series finale and avoid a sweep at the hands of the Braves, who did, however, win the series and improve to 15-7 against the Nationals since the start of the 2013 season.
Hard as it is to call the sixth game of the season a must-win, Nationals' Manager Matt Williams was happy to avoid the sweep.
"It was good," Williams said. "Ian had a big home run there. He'd been on some pitches this whole series and missed them and he finally got his pitch today."
Alex Wood told reporters, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's David O'Brien, that he knew he was in trouble the minute he threw the fastball to Desmond:
#Braves Alex Wood on the fastball to Desmond: "I knew right when it left my hand that it wasn’t going to be a very good outcome."— David O'Brien (@ajcbraves) April 6, 2014
Matt Williams was impressed with what he saw from both Wood and the Braves as a team. "He's a good pitcher," the Nats' skipper said. "Good fastball. Both sides of the plate. And surprising fastball. He mixed in both a changeup and curve ball today for strikes when he wanted to. He's a good pitcher."
The Braves, Williams said, were impressive, but the Nationals were in two of the three games with them. His takeaway from the weekend series?
"What we take from it is that the Braves are a really good team. They've got a lot of ways to beat you. Exceptional bullpen. And we were in two of the three really. With the exception of yesterday, we were one swing away from that one too. So, that's good. The guys are fighting hard."
Up next, the Marlins. Until Tuesday's game, links and lots of them, starting... RIGHT NOW!!!:
• THE BIG STORY!!!:
• "Desmond gave Washington the go-ahead run in what ended as a 2-1 win for the Nationals. They avoided the sweep and salvaged the first series between the two teams of the season." - "Desmond leads Nats to win with HR, reveals personal struggle" - Chase Hughes, Nats Insider
• NATS BEAT:
• "Desmond’s titanic homer, which nearly landed on the concourse, fortified a clutch performance from the Nationals’ pitching staff." - "Washington Nationals top Atlanta Braves, 2-1, to avoid three-game sweep" - Adam Kilgore, The Washington Post
• "While it's very, very early in the season, there's no doubt that yesterday's 2-1 win was a big one for Matt Williams' club..." - "Nationals Pastime: Desmond's big victory had nothing to do with game-winning homer" - Dan Kolko, MASNSports.com
• "Before the game, speaking about all of the team's recent adversity, pitching coach Steve McCatty pointed out that the 162-game season was still only five games old." - "Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals - April 6, 2014" - Andrew Simon, MLB.com WSH Recap
• "Jordan said his fastball was on from the first inning and that helped him build confidence and mix in the rest of his pitches." - "Desmond and Jordan talk after 2-1 dispatch of rival Braves" - Byron Kerr, MASNSports.com
• "The Braves have still beaten the Nationals in 14 of 21 meetings since last opening day." - "Takeaways from the first Nationals-Braves series" - Adam Kilgore, Washington Post
• "Jordan finished with one earned run, six hits, two walks and three strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings. He has now faced the Braves twice in his career, holding a 0.73 ERA across two starts." - "Taylor Jordan shines in Nationals’ win over Braves" - Chase Hughes, Nats Insider
• "Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman underwent an MRI on his sore right shoulder Sunday, the results of which revealed inflammation but no structural damage." - "Zimmerman has no structural damage in shoulder" - Bill Ladson, nationals.com: News
• "Zimmerman was pulled from yesterday's game against the Braves after just five innings due to discomfort in the shoulder, the same shoulder that has bothered him for much of the last three years." - "Nationals Pastime: Zimmerman dealing with shoulder inflammation, no structural damage" - Dan Kolko, MASNSports.com
• "The Nationals will reevaluate Zimmerman after Monday’s off day. They hope rest will allow Zimmerman to recapture strength in his shoulder." - "Ryan Zimmerman avoids disabled list after MRI" - Adam Kilgore, Washington Post
• "Williams and the Nationals will now look at ways to adjust Zimmerman’s throwing workload. That could mean limiting his practice before games." - "Zimmerman’s MRI negative; Fister progressing; Harper gets day off" - Chase Hughes, Nats Insider
• "There will be days this season when Matt Williams, against his better judgment, has to rest his players." - "On a day of rest for many, Nationals salvage final game of series against Braves" - Zac Boyer, Washington Times
• "Barring some well-hidden secret, Roark’s Sunday availability stemmed from two possibilities." - "Tanner Roark was available in relief Sunday" - Adam Kilgore, Washington Post
• "In most baseball circles, the Nationals -- along with the Braves -- are widely considered the class of the National League East." - "Miami Marlins at Washington Nationals - April 8, 2014" - Joe Frisaro, MLB.com Preview
• "With the Nats laboring through scoreless inning after scoreless inning against Wood, Desmond took matters into his own hands to begin the bottom of the seventh." - "Instant Analysis: Nats 2, Braves 1" - Chase Hughes, Nats Insider
• Your Daily Message From The Dalai Lama On Twitter:
When you face problems in your lives, don’t resort to the use of force, try to employ dialogue to find a solution.— Dalai Lama (@DalaiLama) February 10, 2014
• NATIONAL(S) BEAT:
• "Alex Wood was almost perfect against the last 23 Washington batters that the young Braves left-hander faced Sunday." - "Alex Wood strong, but Braves’ bats quiet in 2-1 loss to Nats" - David O'Brien, www.ajc.com
• "Before the game it appeared as if the Braves may have had the upper hand with first year Nationals manager Matt Williams benching Bryce Harper due to performance reasons..." - "Nationals Avoid Late Inning Letdown To Beat Braves 2-1" - Patrick MacCoon, Talking Chop
• "Rendon loves to play third. But he was well aware of the circumstances in the organization he's playing for, and viewed the change as an opportunity, not a problem. Nor was he surprised." - "Anthony Rendon is working hard to learn second base" - Howard Medgal, SportsonEarth.com : Howard Megdal Article
• NATS MINORS:
• Low-A Hagerstown: "RHP Dixon Anderson (1-0) pitched four scoreless innings in relief for Hagerstown to earn the win." - "Suns clinch series with Braves with 6-2 win" - Eli Pearlstein, Hagerstown Suns News
• "After a long winter this year, I was excited to make the drive up I-70 Saturday night to scout Nationals uber-prospect Lucas Giolito..." - "Scouting Lucas Giolito" - Ryan Sullivan, NatsGM
• High-A Potomac: "Potomac RHP Pedro Encarnacion made his carolina league debut and despite walking four batters in 4.0 innings, gave the Nationals a chance to win." - "Potomac Nationals rally, top Carolina, 6-4" - Augusta Free Press
• Double-A Harrisburg: "Left-hander Matt Purke, one of the top Nationals' pitching prospects, was ripped for seven runs (six earned) on nine hits in just three innings..." - "Matt Purke roughed up in Double-A debut as Harrisburg Senators swept by Bowie" - Geoff Morrow, PennLive.com
Ha. Just noticed there's a six-way tie for first AND last in the @EasternLeague's Eastern Division. Everybody 2-2.— Geoff Morrow (@RageAgainstGMo) April 7, 2014
• Triple-A Syracuse: "Syracuse scored a couple of runs in the first inning on a two-run double to left-center field by Brock Peterson, who was playing first base after Tyler Moore had been called to the big leagues by the Washington Nationals." - "Syracuse Chiefs earn their first victory of their 100th International League season, 3-0" - Bud Poliquin, syracuse.com
• "Monday’s News & Notes" - Luke Erickson, NationalsProspects.com
• "Turns out the gear mechanism that runs the clock hands began experiencing problems last season, and it became increasingly more difficult to repair, so the team decided to remove the hands, according to a team spokeswoman." - "Why the Nats Park clock lost its hands" - Dan Steinberg, DC Sports Bog
• "A collective sigh of relief swept through Nationals Park when Ryan Zimmerman stepped up to pinch-hit in the eighth inning against the Atlanta Braves." - "Rizzo's moves take some sting out of Zimmerman's injury" - Nationals Buzz: Marty Niland
• "It’s become an annual tradition. Each April at least a half dozen area mascots show up on a Sunday at Nationals Park to celebrate Nats mascot Screech’s birthday." - "Video: Eight area mascots pummel racing presidents, Abe Lincoln rips off Talon’s head" - Presidents Race Fan, Let Teddy Win!
• "Not convinced that you should be living under a cloud of forboding doom? Here are six reasons to panic six games into the season..." - "Six reasons to panic after six games" - Andrew Bailey, Red Porch Report
• "No reversing the call on this one: Up above, video of Ian Desmond's 421 foot solo home run on Sunday..." - "Video: Ian Desmond's home run salvages weekend" - Nats Enquirer
• "The Nats were feeling the pressure against their NL East competition, having dropped the first two games of the series, but pulled through when it mattered the most." - "Minus Franchise Faces, Nats Beat Braves In Thriller" - Andrew Flax, The Nats Blog
• "With Bryce Harper out of the lineup Sunday afternoon, the Washington Nationals tallied just four hits to top the Atlanta Braves 2-1 by the skin of their teeth." - "Washington Nationals Game 6 Review: Jordan Solid as Nats Top Braves to Avoid Sweep" - Alyssa Wolice, District Sports Page
• "Coming into the Braves series, the Nats bats looked like all-stars. Some cheerleader or another said 'where are the outs in this lineup' and it was hard to disagree with him at the time." - "Was it the Mets? Was it the Braves? Yes! No! Both! Neither!" - Harper, Nationals Baseball
• "Nats Trivia: Home Opener and Record Attendance Figures 2014 Edition" - Todd Boss, Nationals Arm Race
• NL EAST UPDATES:
• Marlins: "But even though many feel the Nationals are the team to beat in the National League East, the Marlins aren’t treating the early showdown with their division rivals as a litmus test." - "Miami Marlins don’t view series with Washington Nationals as a gauge on season’s success" - Clark Spencer, MiamiHerald.com
• Mets: "A young child writes a letter to Jesus asking about his favorite baseball team, the Mets." - "Child asks Jesus why He made the Mets so bad" - Dan Zinski, Call to the Pen
• Phillies: "If the world was a strict meritocracy, David Buchanan would be making his major league debut for the Phillies on Sunday." - "Don't be surprised if Jonathan Pettibone starts Saturday" - David Murphy, Philadelphia Daily News