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Game Thread: Atlanta at Washington- 2008 Game 12 of 162.

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Eight straight losses? (3-8) so far this season. The Washington Nationals really need to turn it around quickly. I know it's early, but I stick by the previous sentence. As the Nationals look to avoid a line of nine losses after starting the season with three wins, they run into the Atlanta Braves' legendary righty John Smoltz, who brings a career (20-11) record and 2.60 ERA against the Nationals/Expos, (as well as 17 saves) into Nationals Park this afternoon in what will be the 40-year old Smoltz's 40th start against the franchise.

John Lannan's never faced the Braves. The 23-year old, 6'5'' lefty, went 6.2 IP in his first start of the season on the road against St. Louis, surrendering 7 hits, 2 runs, 1 HR and 3 walks, while ringing up 4 K's in a loss. (0-1, 2.70 ERA).

Nationals #'s Against John Smoltz -

Paul Lo Duca - 14 for 39, .359 AVG, 4 doubles, 1 HR, 3 RBI's.

Cristian Guzman - 4 for 14, .286 AVG, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 RBI.

Ryan Zimmerman - 8 for 32, .250 AVG, 2 2B, 2 HR's, 9 RBI's.

Austin Kearns - 7 for 23, .304 AVG, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 3 RBI's...8 K's.

NATIONALS' NOTES -

Atlanta Braves' right fielder agrees with my assessment of Matt Chico's effort last night, telling MLB.com's Bill Ladson, in an article entitled, "Nats can't back Chico's stellar effort", that:

"'He was nasty tonight,' Braves left fielder Matt Diaz said. 'We think we threw the best pitcher [Tim Hudson] in baseball out there tonight, and [Chico] matched him pitch for pitch.'"

Is Hudson the Braves' best pitcher? John Smoltz might disagree? Is Matt Chico the Nationals' best starter? Over the last two seasons, I'd have to say...Yes. I'd love to hear someone disagree with me? Can anyone say any one starter on the roster this or last season has been more consistently competitive than Chico?

RYAN ZIMMERMAN?

0-16? In the last four games, 0-for in three against Florida, and the first of three with Atlanta, Zimmerman has gone completely hitless since April 6th, and he hasn't hit a HR or recorded an RBI since April 2nd...and Zimmerman received a big compliment from Super Agent Scott Boras by way of a Robert Wuhl anecdote told to MASN Nationals' annoucer Don Sutton during last night's Nationals broadcast, during which Mr. Wuhl quoted Mr. Boras saying that Zimmerman was possibly the best college third baseman he'd ever seen. Zimmerman's currently hitting .209 through 11 games...

WILY MO TO THE RESCUE?

Maybe by next weekend, according to Washington Post sports writer Barry Svrluga, who writes in a post entitled, "Cordero, Pena updates...lineups", on the washingtonpost.com blog "Nationals Journal" about Washington's plans for Pena with Nationals' GM Jim Bowden, who's quoted stating:

"...the team is 'expediting the process' for Pena's return. He (Pena) went 3 for 3 in an extended spring training game in Viera earlier today, and will play left field there tomorrow, followed by back-to-back games at Class AAA Columbus this weekend. 'I'm hoping at least by next weekend he's playing [for the Nationals], maybe earlier,' Bowden said."

Where will Pena be batting upon his return? The Felipe Lopez in left thing has been, uh...Interesting? But when Pena and Elijah Dukes return, where is Lopez going to be playing? I'd say either Pena or Dukes should start ahead of Lopez? Has he done well enough in the outfield to earn the interest of other teams? Some tough choices are coming up...

...But first, it's John Smoltz (1-0, 0.00) vs John Lannan (0-1, 2.70)

1:05 pm EST...I'll be listening live on XM, but feel I'll be checking in if anyone's watching...

Check the NatCast if you're heading to Nationals Park...