Just Another Mound Top 5:
5. Quick Recap: Washington Nationals' catcher Wilson Ramos spoiled Atlanta Braves' starter Ervin Santana's bid for a perfect game when he walked to start the third, and two outs later the Nats' backstop scored the first run of the series opener in Turner Field when Denard Span doubled to right to bring him in from second for a 1-0 lead.
Double no.38 of 2014 for Span.
Ramos led the top of the fifth off with an impressive blast of a solo home run to left on a 1-0 slider Santana left up outside. Ramos yanked it out to left field for his 11th HR of the season. 2-0 Nats after four and a half.
The Nationals added to their lead in the seventh with Asdrubal Cabrera doubling with two down and scoring on an RBI single to center by Stephen Strasburg... who also threw seven scoreless. 3-0 Nationals.
Ian Desmond grounded into a force at second in the eighth for the second out of the frame, then stole second base with Nate Schierholtz up before scoring on the Nats' bench bat's RBI single to center. 4-0.
Andrelton Simmons and Justin Upton hit leadoff and one-out doubles, respectively, off Nats' right-hander Rafael Soriano in the ninth to make it 4-1. Christian Bethancourt hit a two-out single to center to drive Upton in and make it 4-2, but that's all Atlanta managed off the struggling reliever.
That's how it ended. 4-2 Nationals final.
View from the Braves bullpen. pic.twitter.com/x8MQIpPniw— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) September 15, 2014
4. 5/26/12: Washington Nationals' right-hander Stephen Strasburg got knocked around last time out in Turner Field, giving up seven hits, four home runs and seven runs total in five innings of work, but he bounced back with a solid outing against the Braves when he faced Atlanta in the nation's capital last week.
In the Nats' '09 no.1 overall pick's fourth start of the year against the Nationals' NL East rivals, the 28-year-old starter surrendered seven hits, one home run and three runs total in six innings in a 6-2 loss in which he fell to ( L, 11-11).
Strasburg gave up a solo home run by B.J. Upton in the fifth after starting the outing with four scoreless frames, then allowed leadoff and one-out doubles in the sixth, both of which were followed by RBI singles, one each by Justin Upton and catcher Christian Bethancourt, as the Braves jumped out to a 3-1 lead after six.
"I thought he was pretty good," Nats' skipper Matt Williams said after the loss. "He gave up the homer to [B.J.] Upton, and then Justin hit a ball -- good piece of hitting trying to move the guy from second to third and [Adam LaRoche] dove for it and it went off his glove. Then the pitch to Bethancourt was probably down and off the plate and he did a nice job of serving it into right, but other than that I thought he pitched pretty well today."
Asked about the first-pitch fastball inside to B.J. Upton, that ended up in the stands to the left of the visitor's bullpen in Nationals Park, Strasburg said simply, "I've just got to make a better pitch."
Overall, he explained, he felt good on the mound.
"I felt great out there," the 26-year-old starter said. "I felt like I was hitting my spots and just a couple hits that were just out of our reach and that's the ballgame."
The loss in D.C. left Strasburg (0-3) vs the Nationals' divisional rivals this season with a 7.17 ERA, fives walks and 31 Ks in four starts and 21 ⅓ IP against Atlanta, over which Braves' hitters have put up a .323/.363/.573 line against him.
In Turner Field, before tonight's start, the Nats' righty was (1-3) in seven career starts, with a 6.99 ERA, 18 walks (5.72 BB/9) and 37 Ks (11.75 K/9) in 28 ⅓ IP, over which Braves' hitters have put up a .295/.397/.543 line.
Overall against Atlanta, he was (3-7) in 16 starts in his career, with a 4.61 ERA and a .274/.334/.427 line against in 80 IP.
Strasburg's seventeenth start against the Braves began with a harmless fly ball to center.
1st: Phil Gosselin sent a fly to center on the second pitch of the game from Stephen Strasburg. Andrelton Simmons fouled off a 1-1 fastball to fall behind 1-2, and K'd swinging at a changeup in the dirt. Two down. Freddie Freeman, who started the game 11 for 25 (.440/.515/.880) with two doubles and three home runs off Strasburg in their respective careers, improved to 12 for 26 with a two-out line drive single to center, but he was stranded in the next AB when Justin Upton grounded into a force at second to end a 13-pitch first by the Nats' starter.
2nd: Jason Heyward pushed Bryce Harper back to the track in left field where Harper caught out no.1 of the second. Chris Johnson took a first-pitch fastball through the left side for a one-out single. Christian Bethancourth stepped in with a runner on and sent a chopper toward third to start an inning-ending 5-4-3. Five-pitch frame, 18 total after two.
3rd: B.J. Upton singled through short on a hanging curve, sending a sharp one-hopper off Ian Desmond's glove for a leadoff hit. Ervin Santana bunted Upton over/gave up an out, but Upton got thrown out at third trying to take a base on a ball in the dirt to Phil Gosselin. Gosselin's grounder to second ended an 11-pitch frame. 29 total for Strasburg after three.
4th: Andrelton Simmons started the Braves' fourth with a pop-up to first. Freddie Freeman K'd swinging through a 2-2 change. Justin Upton stepped in with two out and popped out to short to end a 14-pitch, 1-2-3 fourth. 43 pitches overall.
5th: Jason Heyward ripped a line drive single to right to start the Braves' fifth and took two bases on a throwing error on a pickoff gone wrong. Chris Johnson K'd swinging through a 1-2 change for out no.1. Christian Bethancourt grounded out to third for out no.2. B.J. Upton stepped in with a two-out RBI opportunity, and K'd swinging at a 90 mph 1-2 change inside. 17-pitch frame, 60 total after five.
6th: Jose Constanza chased a 1-2 change out of the zone for a swinging K and out no.1. Phil Gosselin grounded out to short for out no.2. Andrelton Simmons doubled to right with two down to bring Freddie Freeman to the plate. Freeman worked the count full, but took a curve outside for a called third strike. He did not like the call and he was ejected along with Braves' skipper Fredi Gonzalez. 18-pitch frame, 78 total.
7th: Justin Upton popped to short left for the first out of the frame. Jason Heyward grounded sharply to Adam LaRoche at first and Strasburg got over to cover. Chris Johnson stepped in with two out and went down swinging at an 0-2 change. 12-pitch, 1-2-3 frame. 90 total after seven scoreless.
• Stephen Strasburg's Line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 Ks, 90 P, 58 S, 7/2 GO/FO.
3. Facing Santana: Before last Tuesday night's matchup between Jordan Zimmermann and Braves' starter Ervin Santana, Nationals' manager Matt Williams talked to reporters about what he saw as Atlanta's 31-year-old righty's biggest weapon.
"Changeup," he said. "Changeup is really, really good. It neutralizes lefties. He can reach back for 96 [mph] when he needs it, yet he pitches low '90s with some really good movement and breaking ball for strikes any time he wants it. But I think his biggest pitch, for me, is his changeup. Very deceptive, good arm action, a lot off his fastball and it's really tough to stay back knowing he can reach back and get 95-96 when he wants to. He's a good pitcher."
The Nats jumped on Santana early that night, scoring four runs in a 22-pitch opening frame in which Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond and Wilson Ramos hit RBI singles and Asdrubal Cabrera drove a run in with a sac fly.
The Braves' starter wasn't sharp in the first two innings and he left a few pitches up that the Nationals were able to take advantage of to score five runs in the first two frames.
"You have to take advantage of those pitches," Williams said after the Nats' 6-4 win.
"Sometimes you hit them and sometimes you foul them off. But tonight we didn't hit a whole bunch of balls hard-hard, but they had a good approach, they stayed through the middle of the diamond and we were able to piecemeal that first inning especially together. Just good at bats."
Santana's start in Nationals Park, which saw him surrender eight hits and six runs, five earned, in five innings, left him (7-2) in 11 second-half starts, over which the right-hander has put up a 3.38 ERA and a 3.39 FIP with a .256/.336/.368 line against in 69 ⅓ IP.
The 12th start of the second-half of Santana's first campaign with the Braves began with a quick, 13-pitch, 1-2-3 frame. Santana struck out the side in a 14-pitch, 1-2-3 second, which left him at 27 pitches total after two in Turner Field.
Wilson Ramos walked to start the third and end Santana's bid for a perfect game. B.J. Upton made a nice sliding catch in center for the first out of the frame, and Stephen Strasburg bunted Ramos over/gave up an out before Denard Span stepped in and doubled to right to drive the Nats' catcher in for a 1-0 lead. 19-pitch third for Santana, 46 total after three.
Jayson Werth doubled to left over a leaping Justin Upton to start the fourth and tagged and took third on a line drive to right by Adam LaRoche. Ian Desmond popped to short for out no.2 and Nate Schierholtz stepped in as a pinch hitter for Bryce Harper?... and went down swinging to end an 11-pitch frame that left Santana at 57 pitches.
Bryce Harper was removed from tonight's game after feeling lightheaded.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 16, 2014
Wilson Ramos got hold of a 1-0 slider from Santana in the top of the fifth and sent a solo home run out to left field for a 2-0 lead over the Braves. No.11 for Ramos. 20-pitch 5th for Santana, 77 total after five.
A 15-pitch, 1-2-3 sixth left Santana at 92 pitches.
• Ervin Santana's Line: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 Ks, 1 HR, 92 P, 55 S, 4/3 GO/FO.
2. Nats vs Braves: The Nationals started the final series of the season with the Braves 6-10 with three games to play this week in Turner Field, where they were 1-5 this season before tonight. The Nats' one win in Atlanta came during the last visit to Georgia when the Nats dropped two of three games to the NL East's second-place team.
Having dropped the season series to the Braves already, the Nationals did, however, have an opportunity to clinch a posteason berth in the next three games going into the series and deal Atlanta a devastating blow in the process as they Braves put themselves in a tough position by dropping seven of their last ten, including three straight on the road in Arlington, Texas this past weekend.
• The Nats entered the series with a magic no. of 4 to clinch a postseason berth and it was down to 2 when the game ended.
1. The Wrap-Up: Luis Avilan took over for the Braves in the seventh and the left-handed reliever gave up a run on a two-out single to center by Stephen Strasburg, who drove Asdrubal Cabrera in from second after the second baseman's two-out double. 3-0 Nats after six and a half.
Former Nationals' prospect Juan Jaime walked Jayson Werth to start the eighth and was replaced by left-hander Chase Shreve who struck out Adam LaRoche. Gus Schlosser got a force at second on a grounder to short from Ian Desmond. Desmond stole second with Nate Schierholtz up, and scored to make it 4-0 when Schierholtz lined to center.
Craig Stammen took over on the mound in the bottom of the eighth inning after a loooong top of the frame. Christian Bethancourt singled to left to start the frame and took second on a wild pitch. Ryan Doumit popped out to foul territory off third for out no.2. Phil Gosselin's groundout to short ended another scoreless frame.
James Russell threw a scoreless top of the ninth.
Rafael Soriano came on in the bottom of the inning and gave up a leadoff double by Andrelton Simmons. Joey Terdaslovich K'd swinging at an 0-2 cutter. Justin Upton doubled to left to bring Simmons home. 4-1. Jason Heyward sent a fly to left for out no.2, but a walk to Chris Johnson ended Soriano's outing. Drew Storen came on to get the final out. Christian Benthancourt worked the count full and singled to center to make it 4-2. B.J. Upton? Grounder to short that Ian Desmond bobbled, before throwing to first... in time!! Ballgame.
Nationals now 86-63