The NL East's fourth place Washington Nationals take their five game winning streak on the road to Atlanta, Georgia's Turner Field to start the three game weekend series with their division rivals, the third place Braves. Rookie right hander Joel Hanrahan faces the veteran righty John Smoltz on the mound, as the Nationals look to continue their winning ways.
"I'm not going to believe Smoltz is 100% until I see him throw his splitter," my brother Scout says, "...he hasn't thrown it in a month." Smoltz retires the Nationals batters in order in the first, "Smoltz doesn't throw the splitter to lefties, he throws the slider instead, he used to throw the splitter to lefties, and the slider to righties, when he does that again i'll think he's really healthy," Scout observes as the Nationals take the field in the first.
Joel Hanrahan gives up a two-out double to Chipper Jones in the bottom of the first that blows by Dmitri Young at first and makes it to the right field corner, "Dmitri made the right decision not getting in front of that," Scout says. Hanrahan walks Mark Teixiera in front of Braves catcher Brian McCann. McCann gets a hold of one to center, but Nook Logan catches it well short of the warning track.
Dmitri Young walks to lead off the second. Smoltz gets up two strikes on Austin Kearns and gets him swinging at a fastball out of the zone. Wily Mo Pena chases a slider that drops off the table for strike three and the second out. "Would you be able to do that," Scout asks after Smoltz backs Ronnie Belliard off the plate, "Could you throw a fastball right at his knees?" Scout continues, "...cause it sets up the slider outside," Scout concludes as Smoltz gets Belliard chasing the aforementioned pitch to retire three straight after the walk.
Jeff Francouer lines a two-strike pitch for a single to left to start the bottom of the second. A long fly ball from Andruw Jones gets caught up on the humid Georgia air. Hanrahan gets a groundout from Yunel Escobar, and gets the opposing pitcher, John Smoltz, chasing a nasty sinker. No score after two.
Smoltz walks Brian Schneider to start the third, but strands him at second as he retires the next three Nationals and completes his third scoreless. Hanrahan walks Willie Harris to start the bottom of the inning. Back to back walks as Hanrahan lets Kelly Johnson on. "Both of them (the last two) were good pitches," Scout observes, "Kelly Johnson just never swings." Chipper Jones gets a hold of a 2-1 cut-fastball inside and demolishes it to right for a 3-0 Braves lead.
Smoltz retires the Nationals in order in the fourth, getting Zimmerman and Kearns swinging for his sixth and seventh K's through four. Ryan Zimmerman makes another one of his mysterious throwing errors, sailing the throw to first on an easy grounder from Andruw Jones to leadoff the fourth. AJones takes second on the error. Hanrahan walks Yunel Escobar. Smoltz bunts back to the pitcher who takes the force at third to cut down the lead runner, but Ryan Zimmerman sails another throw to first, advancing both runners into scoring position. Hanrahan throws a wild pitch, the throw to the plate from Schneider hits Yunel Escobar and rolls towards the wall allowing Smoltz to score as well. 5-0 Braves. "Uh-oh, I just saw Willie(Harris) peak at your sign," Scout says as Harris lines a low fastball for a single. Hanrahan's done. Lefty Micah Bowie is on in relief. Kelly Johnson grounds to Belliard to Lopez to DY double play to end the fourth.
John Smoltz retires the Nationals in order in the fifth. Micah Bowie gives up back to back singles to CJones and Teixeira to start the fifth, but gets a double play grounder from Brian McCann. CJones moves to third, and scores on Jeff Francouer's seeing eye single up the middle. 6-0 Braves.
John Smoltz strikes out D'Angelo Jimenez with the same slider inside he's been throwing all night, then barehands a grounder and fires to first to get Nook Logan, before inducing a ground out from Felipe Lopez to retire the Nationals in order in the sixth. Mike Bacsik pitches a scoreless sixth in relief for the Nationals.
John Smoltz gets Ryan Zimmerman swinging for his 9th K of the night to start the seventh. DY grounds out to short. Austin Kearns fouls off a few full count fastballs before hitting a ground ball to short that Yunel Escobar drops and then throws a step late. Kearns is safe...but it's ruled an error...Smoltz gets Wily Mo Pena swinging over a nasty slider in the dirt for his seventh hitl- "Don't you dare say it," Scout speaks up with his first words in a few innings. 6-0 Braves after six and a half. Stand up and stretch...
Chipper Jones reaches first safely on a throwing error, takes second on the errant throw from Felipe Lopez, moves to third on Mark Teixeira's fly ball and scores on Jeff Francouer's sac fly. 7-0 Braves after seven. John Smoltz finally gives up a hit. Ronnie Belliard lines a two-strike single to right. That's all for Smoltz as Braves Manager Bobby Cox comes out to relieve the righty...Submariner Peter Moylan is up from down under and "The Double Machine" Ryan Church finds the gap in left to score Belliard from second. 7-1 Braves.
Ross Detwiler makes his Major League debut with a strike over the middle to Andruw Jones in the eigth. The lanky lefty gets a ground out on a 94 mph fastball to record the first out of his career. 6'5'' and 185 lbs, Detwiler's wearing #29 on his Nationals jersey, Detwiler saws off Yunel Escobar, but Zimmerman's mysterious throwing errors continue with his third throwing error of the night up the line and by DY at first. Detwiler gets a fly ball from Matt Diaz for the second out of the eigth. Detwiler's got the fastball down, but he almost hits Willie Harris with two sliders before painting the outside corner with a fastball for his first Major League K.
Braves closer Rafael Soriano blows Austin Kearns away with a 94 mph fastball to retire the side in order and end the 7-1 Braves win.
Nationals now 63-78.