5. Doug Fister's Turn in Turner Field: Doug Fister got off to a rough start last time out. He gave up a leadoff home run by St. Louis Cardinals' third baseman Matt Carpenter on a 2-2 fastball up high in the zone in the first at bat of his start last Wednesday in the nation's capital. Cards' second baseman Kolten Wong hit an 86 mph 1-2 fastball out to right in the second for a two-run home run and Matt Adams doubled to drive in a run in the top of the third before an error by Ryan Zimmerman at first let another run in for a 5-0 lead.
"I didn't get them in," Fister said after the game, discussing the two pitches that were hit out. "I wanted them elevated, but I wanted them in, off the plate, and I didn't get them there. And they obviously made me pay for it. They're good hitters over there."
The Nationals rallied to tie it up at 5-5 in the bottom of the third, and Fister settled in after the shaky first few innings, throwing three scoreless to keep it tied.
Asked about the adjustments he made to calm things down, the Nats' 6'8'' right-hander said he just got back to his sinker.
"Really just focused on working with my sinker," he said.
"Started mixing in other pitches and just trying to keep things off-balance and go back to letting the defense work. The guys made plays for me tonight, I just did a poor job of that early on."
That outing left Fister with a 2.37 ERA, a 4.69 FIP, seven walks (3.32 BB/9) and eight Ks (3.79 BB/9) in three starts and 19 IP so far this season.
Tonight in Atlanta, Fister was facing the Braves for the fourth time in his career, after going (3-0) wth a 1.23 ERA, four walks (1.64 BB/9) and 14 Ks (5.73 K/9) in 22 IP in the previous three outings against the Nationals' NL East rivals, over which he held their hitters to a combined .169/.238/.195 line.
He also had a streak of eighteen scoreless innings going against Atlanta which stretched back to the fourth inning of a start for the Detroit Tigers opposite the Braves back in 2013...
Fister issued a leadoff walk to Nick Markakis in the first at bat of tonight's game. Freddie Freeman followed with a double one out later, putting runners at second and third for A.J. Pierzynski, whose sac fly to left broke Fister's streak of scoreless innings. 1-0 Braves. Fister issued a two-out walk to Alberto Callaspo as well, but stranded two Braves when Kelly Johnson K'd looking to end a 22-pitch frame.
Jace Peterson lined a high 85 mph 0-2 heater to left for a leadoff single in the Braves' second. One out later, a sac bunt by Eric Stults moved Peterson into scoring position at second. Nick Markakis stepped in with two out, but the Nats caught Peterson sleeping with the so-called "daylight play" picking the infielder off second for the third out of a 13-pitch frame by Fister. 35 total after two.
Freddie Freeman hit a blooper to right on a 1-2 cutter for a two-out hit off Fister in the Braves' half of the third, but A.J. Pierzynski grounded out to first to end a 13-pitch frame that left Fister at 48 pitches overall.
Alberto Callaspo lined a single to center to start the Braves' fourth then went first-to-third on a hit-and-run single to right by Kelly Johnson. Jace Peterson came up with runners on the corners and no one out and hit a sac fly to center to bring Callaspo in and make it 2-1 Atlanta. Johnson got thrown out at second trying to advance on the play for out no.2 and Eric Young, Jr. grounded out to first to end a 10-pitch at bat and a 14-pitch inning that pushed Fister up to 62 pitches.
Andrelton Simmons hit a chopper to third with two out in the Braves' fifth that got under Yunel Escobar's glove and was ruled a hit. Freddie Freeman came up with a runner on and two hits in his first two at bats vs Fister. Fister tried to pick Simmons off first, but threw it by the bag. Danny Espinosa picked it up in foul territory and threw a one-hopper to third, but the Braves' shortstop slid in late and cleat first and knocked Escobar's glove off his hand with the ball in it. Safe at third. Escobar left the game there. Freddie Freeman K'd swinging to end inning, however, for out no.3, and Fister was through five on 79 pitches after a 17-pitch frame.
A.J. Pierzynski singled to right to start the Braves' sixth, and moved up to second on a groundout to first by Alberto Callaspo. Kelly Johnson stepped in next and hit a towering two-run home run out to right... and out for a 4-1 lead.
BOOM, SEE YA, GONE! Kelly Johnson launches a 2-run shot!— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) April 28, 2015
Jace Peterson lined a single to left in the at bat that followed, then took third on the second botched pickoff attempt of the game. Braves' skipper Fredi Gonzalez called for a suicide squeeze with Eric Young, Jr. at the plate, and Young got it down. 5-1 Atlanta when Peterson scored. A single to left by Eric Stults ended Fister's night...
That squeeze that score Braves up 5-1!— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) April 28, 2015
• Doug Fister's Line: 5.2 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 3 Ks, 1 HR, 104 P, 74 S, 7/2 GO/FO.
4. Mistakes: It was a botched rundown, not an error which led to the Miami Marlins' big inning in Sunday afternoon's win in Marlins Park. It was another misplay defensively for the Washington Nationals in a season that's featured a few of them early this year as the Nats have struggled out of the gate on the field and at the plate.
After the 6-2 loss, and a three-game sweep for the Marlins, Nationals' manager Matt Williams talked to reporters about the mistake by Wilson Ramos which let Giancarlo Stanton escape an inning-ending out.
Stanton went too far around third on a grounder to first by Ichiro Suzuki, but after he was caught in the rundown, Ramos tried to chase him back to third himself instead of tossing to Nats' third baseman Yunel Escobar. With the bases loaded, Adeiny Hechavarria hit a three-run triple in the next at bat for a 3-1 lead.
"We run it every other day," Williams said in discussing practicing rundowns.
"I don't know why he didn't give the ball up. Yunel was there. I'll have to ask him about that one. And then, nice piece of hitting [by Hechavarria]. That's what happens if you give teams extra outs you can pay for it. We did today."
The Nationals have paid for their mistakes again and again through the first 19 games and going into play today, they were tied for the NL lead in errors, with 18.
"It seems as if we do make one it seems to cost us," Williams said. "But that being said, we just have to not make them and then therefore it wouldn't cost us. So, again today, we had a couple of chopped balls there in the inning, but we could have gotten out of it. We didn't execute the rundown and we paid for it."
Tonight in Atlanta, Doug Fister paid for an early mistake in the form of a leadoff walk to Nick Markakis in the first, when Markakis came around to score on a sac fly for a 1-0 lead early.
• A pickoff attempt gone wrong in the fifth cost the Nationals more than a measly run, when Andrelton Simmons tried to go first-to-third and slid in hard and cleat-first, taking Yunel Escobar's glove off his hand with the ball in it and knocking the Nationals' third baseman out of the game. The second pickoff attempt gone wrong, an inning later, set the Braves up with a runner on third and one out and a suicide squeeze brought in run no.5. 5-1 Atlanta.
• 3. Nats vs Braves: No one was talking about the Braves being in the Nationals' collective heads any more after Washington went 7-4 in the last eleven games between the two teams last season after starting the season 1-7 against the Braves.
Boys are back in town! pic.twitter.com/7KxcWEHTWq— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) April 27, 2015
Their 8-11 record overall was an improvement over the 6-13 mark against the Braves in 2013 and the second division title in three years put a lot of the talk about Atlanta dominating the rivalry in recent years to rest.
They renewed the rivalry tonight in Turner Field, with the new look Braves 9-9 after eighteen to the Nationals' 7-12 nineteen games in.
Left-hander Eric Stults started tonight's game with two scoreless, but Danny Espinosa scored on a two-out double to left by Ryan Zimmerman two outs after Espi hit a ground-rule double to center to start the frame. 1-1 after two and a half. Stults was up to 56 pitches overall after working around a leadoff walk to Bryce Harper in the Nats' fourth.
Danny Espinosa singled to start the fifth, but was stranded three outs later. Stults' 13-pitch fifth left him at 69 overall.
An 11-pitch, 1-2-3 sixth left Stults at 80 pitches. A single by Wilson Ramos and a one-out walk to Danny Espinosa ended Stults' night in the top of the seventh.
• Eric Stults' Line: 6.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 3 Ks, 96 P, 59 S, 7/7 GO/FO.
2. Turning Point(s): The Nationals and Braves were tied up at 1-1 after three with an A.J. Pierzynski sac fly in the first and an RBI double by Ryan Zimmerman in the third accounting for each team's run in the early going. Atlanta took a 2-1 lead on another sac fly in the fourth, but the biggest play of the first six innings was one that didn't involve any runs scoring.
Braves' shortstop Andrelton Simmons singles with two down in the fifth, and tried to go first-to-third when a pickoff attempt got by first base with Freddie Freeman at the plate. Simmons went for the extra base but was dead-to-rights when Danny Espinosa recovered the ball in foul territory off first and skipped a one-hop bullet over to third. Yunel Escobar caught the ball and put the tag down, but Simmons went in cleat-first aiming for the glove and knocked it off Escobar's hand with the ball in it. Simmons was ruled safe and Escobar left the game with an apparent injury to his left wrist. No word on what the injury was during the game.
Kelly Johnson's two-run home run in the sixth and a suicide squeeze after another botched pickoff attempt led to the Braves taking a 5-1 lead after six.
1. The Wrap-Up: Matt Grace took over on the mound for Doug Fister with two down in the bottom of the sixth and got a weak grounder to second to end the frame, but the Braves took a 5-1 lead into the seventh.
Cody Martin took over for the Braves in the seventh with two on and one out after a single by Wilson Ramos and a one-out walk to Danny Espinosa. Reed Johnson took a pitch off the hand and took his base, loading them up for Denard Span, whose sac fly to center scored Ramos from third, 5-2 Braves. Ryan Zimmerman stepped up as the potential tying run and K'd looking at a 1-2 fastball outside.
Rafael Martin came on for the Braves' half of the seventh and hit Andrelton Simmons in the hip with a first-pitch fastball. Chris Johnson sent a grounder to Ian Desmond in the next at bat and it skipped off the lip of the infield grass and right under Desmond's glove. A.J. Pierzynski stepped in with runners on the corners and hit a sac fly to center to make it 6-2 Braves.
Kelly Johnson drove Chris Johnson in with two down in the seventh to make it 7-2 Braves after seven.
Bryce Harper took yet another walk in the first at bat of the eighth and scored on a "Little League home run" by Dan Uggla, who tripled to center and scored himself on a throwing error by Jace Peterson, 7-4. Ian Desmond walked to end Cody Martin's night.
Jim Johnson took over for Atlanta with a runner on and one out in the eighth and got a force at second, but no DP, on a grounder to short by Wilson Ramos. Ramos took second on a wild pitch, but was stranded there. 7-4 Braves.
Aaron Barrett gave up a one-out double to center by Nick Markakis, but he caught Andrelton Simmons looking with an 2-2 slider, but Chris Johnson sent an RBI single to left to make it 8-4 Atlanta.
Luis Avilan came on to end it. Tyler Moore reached on an error, but Denard Span K'd looking at a 3-2 fastball up high. Ryan Zimmerman grounded into a force at second for out no.2. Jayson Werth popped up to right to end it.
Ballgame. 8-4 Braves.
Nationals now 7-13