Lopsided Rivalry Top 5:
5. Quick Recap: Stephen Strasburg shook off catcher Jose Lobaton and followed a 96 mph fastball to Atlanta Braves' first baseman Freddie Freeman up with a 91 mph 2-2 change that ended up 3-4 rows back in the seats above the out-of-town scoreboard in right field in Nationals Park.
After Freeman's 12th HR of the 2014 campaign, the Washington Nationals trailed 1-0 early after dropping a 3-0 decision to their NL East rivals in the series opener last night in the nation's capital.
Ian Desmond tied things up with one swing in the bottom of the second, taking a 1-1 change inside for a ride and a solo blast that almost cleared the seats and reached the concourse in left field in Nationals Park. Desmond's 14th of 2014 evened things up at 1-1 after two in D.C.
Jason Heyward, Chris Johnson and Andrelton Simmons hit back-to-back-to-back one-out singles off Strasburg in the fourth with Johnson taking an 0-2 curve through short and Simmons hitting a 1-2 fastball to center for an RBI line drive that made it 2-1 Braves.
Three straight two-out singles in the fifth led to two more runs with Freddie Freeman and Evan Gattis sending line drives to center and scoring when Jason Heyward hit a line drive to right to give the Braves a 4-1 lead after five innings in D.C.
Braves' closer Craig Kimbrel walked Nate McLouth to start the ninth, but retired the next two batters. Anthony Rendon stepped in with one on and two out and took a 98 mph 2-1 fastball to deep left and out of the field of play! The umps took a second look when it bounced back into the field of play, but it was out. 4-4 game.
TIE BALLGAME! With two outs in the ninth, the #Nats have tied this ballgame up on a two-run HR by Anthony Rendon!! 4-4— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) June 21, 2014
The Nationals' bullpen set 18 straight batters down between Tommy La Stella's leadoff double in the seventh and B.J. Upton's leadoff walk in the thirteenth. Freddie Freeman and Evan Gattis followed with back-to-back singles and the Braves took a 5-4 lead. Another run scored when the Nationals bobbled a potential double play grounder and the lead held up this time.
6-4 Braves final.
4. Support Your Stras: Stephen Strasburg should be used to it by now. The Nationals have provided their 2009 no.1 overall pick with 3+ runs of support in 41 of his 90 career starts. In those outings in which he has received 3+ runs of support, Washington is 37-4 overall. Against the Nats' NL East rivals from Atlanta, the 25-year-old right-hander has received 2 runs or less of support in 9 of 13 career outings, including this past April's start against the Braves in Nationals Park, a 6-2 loss in which he gave up eight hits and six runs, three earned in 4 ⅓ IP over which he threw 96 pitches.
That start, Strasburg's only one against Atlanta so far in 2014, left him with a (3-5) record against the Braves in 13 career outings in which he'd put up a 3.86 ERA with 25 walks (3.57 BB/9) and 77 Ks (11.00 K/9) in 63 IP.
Strasburg held Atlanta's hitters to a combined .263/.333/.367 line in those outings with Braves' batters enjoying more success against the Nats' starter than any of the Nationals' other NL East division foes (Miami - .235/.300/.379; Philadelphia - .204/.234/.326; New York - .185/.258/.324).
Strasburg faced off with the Braves for the 14th time in his career in his 16th start of the 2014 campaign tonight, taking the mound in the nation's capital for the ninth time this season.
The Nationals' starter entered tonight's game with a (5-1) record, a 2.10 ERA, a 1.76 FIP, 11 walks (1.93 BB/9) and 68 Ks (11.92 K/9) in 51 ⅓ IP at home in Nats Park this season, where he's held visiting hitters to a .243/.293/.318 line.
1st: Tommy La Stella popped out to foul territory off third for the first out of the game. B.J. Upton K'd looking at a 96 mph 3-2 heater. Freddie Freeman stepped on with two down and the bases empty and hit a solo blast over the out-of-town scoreboard in right field for a 1-0 Braves' lead. Evan Gattis battled Strasburg for nine pitches, but K'd looking at a 3-2 hook for out no.3 and K no.2. 22-pitch frame. 1-0 Atlanta.
Freddie Freeman’s HR came off a Stephen Strasburg changeup. Strasburg had allowed only 1 extra-base hit on 796 changeups last 2 seasons— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 20, 2014
2nd: Jason Heyward chased a 96 mph 3-2 fastball outside, but came up empty. K no.3. Chris Johnson lined a one-out double to left that got by Ryan Zimmerman and made it to the wall. Andrelton Simmons singled on a grounder to short that Anthony Rendon dove for and knocked down. Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond tried to turn a double play on a weak grounder to short off Jordan Schafer's bat, but settled for the force. Mike Minor's fly to right field ended a 25-pitch inning that left Strasburg at 47 pitches total after two.
3rd: Tommy La Stella battled for eight pitches before striking out on 3-2 change down low in the zone. K no. 4. B.J. Upton K'd swinging through a 95 mph 1-2 fastball up high inside. Freddie Freeman's fly to left ended a relatively quick, 15-pitch third. 62 pitches total.
4th: Braves' basher Evan Gattis grounded out to third to start the fourth. Jason Heyward snuck out a one-out single by a diving Danny Espinosa with one down. Chris Johnson singled through the left side for the second straight hit, and did it on an 0-2 curve. Andrelton Simmons spit on an 0-2 fastball outside, and lined the 1-2 pitch to right for an RBI single to center that made it 2-1 Braves. Jordan Schafer grounded into a force at second for out no.2. Mike Minor K'd swinging for out no.3 and K no. 6. But the 22-pitch frame left Strasburg at 84 pitches.
5th: After Tommy La Stella grounded out to second and B.J. Upton flew out to center, Freddie Freeman lined a 95 mph 0-1 fatball to center field for a two-out single. Evan Gattis stretched his hit streak to 19 games with a second straight single. Jason Heyward stepped up with two on and two out battled for seven pitches before hitting a line drive double to right that made it 4-1 Braves. Chris Johnson's fly to center ended a 14-pitch frame. 98 pitches in five innings pitched.
6th: Andrelton Simmons grounded out to short to start the sixth. Jordan Schafer K'd swinging over a 2-2 change for out no.2 and K no.7. Mike Minor's swinging K made it 8 Ks total for Strasburg. The nine-pitch inning left him at 107 total.
• Stephen Strasburg's Line: 6.0 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 8 Ks, 1 HR, 107 P, 71 S, 5/3 GO/FO...
3. Minor-ity Report: Mike Minor entered tonight's outing winless in his last five starts, with an (0-2) record and no-decisions in three of the games, with Atlanta 2-3 when he's taken the mound since his last win, over the Milwaukee Brewers back on May 19th. Over that stretch, the 26-year-old lefty put up a 4.91 ERA in 29 ⅓ over which opposing hitters put up a .309/.363/.480 line against the Braves' '09 1st Round pick, who was selected five spots after his opponent on the mound tonight went no.1 overall.
Minor was making his 10th career start vs the Nationals tonight, against whom he was (3-2) with a 4.96 ERA, 25 walks (4.96 BB/9) and 32 Ks (6.35 K/9) in 45 ⅓ IP. In those outings, Nats' hitters have put up a combined .272/.362/.414 line.
As a team, the Nationals had a combined .284/.345/.408 line against left-handed pitchers, good for 1st in the NL (tied with the Rockies) in AVG, 2nd in OBP (behind the Pirates - .349) and 7th in SLG (tied with the Brewers) before tonight's game.
After a 9-pitch, 1-2-3 1st, Adam LaRoche singled to right for the Nationals' first hit after battling Minor for nine pitches in the first at bat of the second, but he was promptly erased from the basepaths on a double play grounder off Ryan Zimmerman's bat. Ian Desmond stepped in with two down, and crushed a 1-1 bender, sending a monster home run out to left and almost onto the concourse behind the stands. 1-1 game. Danny Espinosa doubled to left-center in the next at bat, but Minor managed to keep it tied. Minor's 19-pitch second left him at 28 total after two.
Denard Span doubled to right and off the out-of-town scoreboard with one down in the third, but he was stranded at third base at the end of a 22-pitch inning that left Minor at 50 overall after three.
Given a one-run lead to work with, Minor retired the first two Nationals he faced in the bottom of the fourth before issuing a two-out walk to Danny Espinosa. Espinosa sole second with Jose Lobaton at the plate, but was stranded there when the Nats' catcher K'd swinging over an 0-2 curve. 17-pitch frame, 67 total after four.
Minor's 10-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth left him at 77 pitches total with a 4-1 lead. After a nine-pitch sixth, Minor was up to 86 pitches and 11 Ks.
Danny Espinosa singled to left to start the Nats' seventh, took second on a passed ball and two outs later scored on a Denard Span triple that made it a 4-2 game. Minor's 19-pitch inning left him at 105 overall.
• Mike Minor's Line: 7.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 11 Ks, 1 HR, 105 P, 74 S, 4/0 GO/FO.
2. They're Coming + LIsten to Wolf:
1. The Wrap-Up: Drew Storen took over for Stephen Strasburg in the Braves' seventh and threw a 9-pitch inning, working around a leadoff double by Tommy La Stella. Craig Stammen threw a nine-pitch top of the eighth after the Nationals cut the Braves' lead to two runs.
Braves' right-hander Anthony Varvaro retired the first two batters he faced in the eighth before Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond hit back-to-back singles. Danny Espinosa stepped in as the potential go-ahead run. Espinosa's fly to left stranded two runs to leave it 4-2 Braves after eight.
Stammen threw a 10-pitch, 1-2-3 eighth to keep it close.
Braves' closer Craig Kimbrel came on for the save and walked the leadoff man, Nate McLouth. Greg Dobbs made a pinch hit appearance and flew out to left for the first out of the inning. Denard Span was first-pitch swinging and popped out to second. Anthony Rendon stepped in with one on and two out and took a 98 mph 2-1 fastball for a ride, tying it up at 4-4 with a two-run blast. The umps took a look because it bounced back into the field of play, but it was out. 4-4 on Rendon's 11th. Jayson Werth walked in the next at bat, but Adam LaRoche lined out to first to send it to extras.
Rafael Soriano took the mound in the top of the tenth and retired the Braves in order in a 16-pitch frame.
Braves' lefty Luis Avilan retired the Nationals in order in the bottom of the inning.
Tyler Clippard got Jayson Heyward looking with a 2-2 cutter. Chris Johnson fell behind 0-2 quickly and K'd swinging at a 2-2 cutter. Andrelton Simmons battled for 11 pitches, worked the count full and popped out to short right on pitch no.12. 21-pitch frame.
Former Nats' prospect Juan Jaime made his MLB debut on the mound in the Nats' 11th, retiring the first two batters he faced before issuing a two-out walk to Denard Span. Anthony Rendon stepped in with a runner on and two down and took a 2-2 curve for a called strike three.
Jerry Blevins made it 18 straight Braves set down after he retired the side in order in the top of the twelfth.
Braves' left-hander Ryan Buchter was the second pitcher to make his MLB debut tonight in D.C. Adam LaRoche walked with one down, but was doubled up on a grounder to first by Ryan Zimmerman. Still tied at 4-4 after twelve.
B.J. Upton walked to start the thirteenth in Jerry Blevins' second inning of work and went first-to-third on a single through the right side by Freddie Freeman before scoring on a single to left by Evan Gattis. After Jason Heyward grounded out for the first out of the inning, the Nationals walked Chris Johnson to set up the double play. Blevins got the grounder he wanted, but Danny Espinosa bobbled it. 6-4 Braves.
Jordan Walden came on for the second save opportunity of the night, and ended it with a 1-2-3 frame.
Nationals now 37-35