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Washington Nationals 9-3 Over Atlanta Braves: Jordan Zimmermann Sharp; Bryce Harper Keeps Hitting; Weather Ends Game Early

Today's Grapefruit League game between the Washington Nationals and the Atlanta Braves was called off after seven innings when storms rolled in over Space Coast Stadium, but before it ended some strong pitching from Jordan Zimmermann and some wind-aided blasts gave the Nats a 9-3 lead.


A 1-2 fastball to Atlanta Braves' shortstop Andrelton Simmons got 26-year-old Washington Nationals' right-hander Jordan Zimmermann the 19th straight out going back to the first inning of six innings he pitched against the Detroit Tigers earlier this week in Grapefruit League action. A one-out walk to Jason Heyward ended the streak of retired batters there, but a 4-6-3 DP in the next at bat ended the Braves' first in Viera, Florida's Space Coast Stadium this afternoon after just nine pitches.

Denard Span threw his bat at a 2-2 fastball outside and punched it into right field for a wind-aided single to start the Nats' first. Span was running when Jayson Werth grounded out in the second AB against ATL right-hander Kris Medlen, so he avoided the double play, and went to third when Bryce Harper lined to right for a one-out single. Ryan Zimmerman flew out to shallow right field for out no.2, but not deep enough for Span to tag and score, but Bryce Harper attempted to steal second with Adam LaRoche at the plate, and an errant throw by Braves' catcher Matt Pagnozzi allowed Span to score from third to make it 1-0 Nats early. A two-out RBI single to center by LaRoche brought Harper around and made it 2-0 Nationals after one.

Freddie Freeman sent a one-hopper back to the mound for out no.1 of the second. A 2-2 slider outside got a check-swing grounder to second from Dan Uggla for out no.2 and a weak roller back to the mound from Juan Francisco to end a quick, 1-2-3 top of the second for Jordan Zimmerman. Danny Espinosa sent a sharp grounder screaming by first and into right for a leadoff single in the Nationals' second. A walk to Kurt Suzuki set Zimmermann up with an attempt to lay down a bunt, so Medlen came up and in on the opposing pitcher, who was not amused. The Nats' starter got a perfect bunt down/gave up an out on the next pitch and Denard Span grounded weakly to first for out no.2, but Jayson Werth stepped in with a two-out chance to drive a run in, and singled to center, bringing Espinosa in in front of Kurt Suzuki, who was out by a mile when he tried to score from second. 3-0 Nats after two.

After Reed Johnson threw Suzuki out at home to end the second, he walked to start the third, taking the second free pass from Jordan Zimmermann today. A short-hop grounder to Ian Desmond in the next at bat allowed the Nats' shortstop to start a slick 6-4-3 DP and a backwards K from Kris Medlen ended a quick top of the third. Bryce Harper was 2 for 2 at the plate (24 for 57 this Spring) after he singled to center to start the Nats' third and he was 2 for 2 on the basepaths after he stole second for the second time on Medlen and Pagnozzi. Ryan Zimmerman worked the count full and grounded out to second to move Harper to third. Adam LaRoche flew to shallow right, but not deep enough for Harper to test Jason Heyward. After Ian Desmond walked, however, Danny Espinosa stepped in hit a two-out, three-run line drive blast out the other way that the wind carried over the fence. 6-0 Nationals after three.

Andrelton Simmons connected for the Braves' first hit, sending a sharp grounder by a diving Ryan Zimmerman at third to start the fourth. Jason Heyward followed with a sharp grounder through the right side for the second hit. A 1-2 fastball outside was called strike three on Justin Upton, but a 3-2 curve from Jordan Zimmermann to Freddie Freeman missed and the Nats' starter loaded the bases with one out in the fourth, allowing Dan Uggla to drive a run in with a line drive to left on a 1-0 slider. 6-1 Nats. Bases loaded, one out, but Juan Francisco grounded to first and Adam LaRoche started an inning-ending (and pretty) 3-6-1 DP to end the top of the frame. 58 pitches for Zimmermann after four. Third double play of the game.

Reed Johnson flew to left on a 1-2 fastball inside from Jordan Zimmermann for the first out of the fifth after Kris Medlen retired the Nationals in order in the home-half of the fourth. Ryan Zimmerman bounced a throw to first after bobbling a Matt Pagnozzi grounder, but Adam LaRoche deftly picked it out of the dirt for out no.2 and Jordan Zimmermann threw a high heater by Medlen to end a quick top of the fifth with a swinging K. Still 6-1 Nats. Bryce Harper was 3 for 3 today and 25 for 58 with five doubles in 21 games this Spring after a leadoff, two-base hit off the left field wall in the bottom of the fifth. Two outs later, Harper was standing on third when Ian Desmond K'd swinging to end the inning.

Ramiro Pena singled to center on Jordan Zimmermann's first pitch of the sixth. Danny Espinosa attempted to make a backhand toss to second to start a double play on a grounder up the middle of Jose Constanza's bat, but Espinosa tossed it by Ian Desmond into center, leaving both runners safe. A two-strike slider outside was called strike three on Jordan Parraz for out no.1, but Chris Johnson lined to center to load the bases for the second time against Zimmermann in the last three innings. A grounder to second by Tyler Pastornicky got Zimmermann out no.2 as the Braves' second run scored, and an error by Adam LaRoche on a Juan Francisco grounder made it 6-3 after five and a half.

Danny Espinosa's third hit of the game came off Braves' lefty Luis Avilan. Espinosa was 3 for 3 today (a triple away from the cycle) and 22 for 63 this Spring after he doubled to left to start the Nats' sixth. Kurt Suzuki followed with a single to center that brought Espinosa around to make it 7-3 Nationals after six.

Jordan Zimmermann's line: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 Ks, 85 pitches.

Ryan Mattheus walked Matt Pagnozzi to start the seventh, but got a force at second on a Joe Terdaslovich grounder in the next at bat. A biting 1-2 splitter got Ramiro Pena swinging for out no.2 and a groundout by Jose Constanza ended a quick inning of relief work by the Nats' right-hander. Steve Lombardozzi doubled to right to start the Nationals' seventh. (11 for 59, 3 doubles in 24 games). One out later, Adam LaRoche hit an opposite field bomb to left to make it 9-3 Nationals. 2 for 3, 4 RBIs today for LaRoche after his second home run of the Spring. 9-3 Nats after seven.

The weather suddenly grew dangerous in the top of the eighth with high winds blowing debris around Space Coast Stadium and forcing officials to pull the players off the field as fans in Viera, Florida ran for cover. The game was called about a half an hour later, so the Nationals won 9-3 after seven and a half...