5. Ross vs the Braves: In 2 ⅔ innings of work on the mound against the St. Louis Cardinals last week, Nationals' right-hander Joe Ross walked as many batters (six) as he did in his first 47 major league innings.
With Washington's rookie starter deeper into a professional season than ever before, there was concern that the 22-year-old was worn out, but Matt Williams and Mike Rizzo told reporters after the outing, it was more a matter of Ross, who threw 68 pitches, just 29 for strikes, battling the conditions in Busch Stadium.
"He had problems holding [the baseball]," Williams said. "Just problems feeling it, throwing it over the plate. No issues physically, just couldn't command it."
"We don't think it was from exhaustion or nearing his limits and stuff like that," Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier.
"He's really in terrific physical condition. He's strong. He felt extremely good last night. The problem, talking to him after the game, he just really couldn't grip the baseball well enough.
"Maybe one of the first times he's pitched in that type of situation where it's on the road against a good team, hot and humid conditions. And just couldn't get a grip on the baseball.
"When you see him spraying the ball the way he was spraying his fastball especially last night, there is obviously reason to question what was going on and he had really good concise answers for it."
The outing, which followed back-to-back wins in which Ross gave up seven hits and one earned run in 13 innings, left the righty (5-5) on the year with a 3.50 ERA, a 3.32 FIP, 17 walks (2.21 BB/9) and 68 Ks (8.83 K/9) in 69 ⅓ IP, over which he held opposing hitters to a combined .218/.273/.353 line.
This afternoon, he was taking on Washington's NL East rivals from Atlanta for the first time.
His outing against the Braves began with a leadoff double to center by Nick Markakis and a one-out walk to Freddie Freeman.
With two down in the first, Nick Swisher hit an RBI single to right field to bring Markakis around ahead of a strong throw in by Bryce Harper and make it 1-0 after one. 22-pitch first.
A 10-pitch, 1-2-3 second left Ross at 32 pitches.
Given a 5-1 lead to work with, Ross worked around a leadoff single by Markakis in a nine-pitch third that left him at 41 pitches.
With the score 7-1, Ross walked Nick Swisher in the first at bat of the fourth. Swisher took second on a groundout and scored on a a throwing error by Tyler Moore, who made a diving stab on a Michael Bourn liner, but threw it by the covering pitcher. 7-2 Nationals. 19-pitch frame, 60 total after four.
Jace Peterson doubled to right with one down in the Braves' fifth and Freddie Freeman walked in the next at bat, bringing an end to Ross' outing.
• Joe Ross' Line: 4.1 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 0 Ks, 76 P, 47 S, 8/3 GO/FO.
4. Banuelos vs the Nationals: Manny Banuelos, 24, made his MLB debut against the Washington Nationals back on July 2nd in Turner Field.
Banuelos, a one-time New York Yankees' prospect, acquired by Atlanta in a January 1, 2015 trade for pitchers David Carpenter and Chase Shreve, threw 5 ⅔ scoreless, striking out seven and allowing just two hits before he was lifted from the outing with dehydration and cramping.
The left-hander made five starts for the Braves in July, posting a 2.49 ERA, a 4.53 FIP, 10 walks (4.15 BB/9) and 16 Ks (6.65 K/9) in 21 ⅔ innings pitched, holding opposing hitters to a combined .235/.333/.358 line.
Banuelos was placed on the DL with elbow inflammation at the end of the month, but worked his way back and after a rehab assignment, was recalled on September 1st.
In 2 ⅔ IP against the Miami Marlins, the lefty allowed six hits, a walk and three earned runs before he left the mound in what ended up a 7-1 loss.
This afternoon, Banuelos was taking on the Nationals for the second time this season.
Given a 1-0 lead to work with before he took the mound, Banuelos retired the Nationals in order in the first, striking out two in a 16-pitch opening frame.
Ian Desmond walked after a leadoff single to left by Yunel Escobar, putting two on with no one out in the bottom of the second and one out later, Michael Taylor took a first-pitch change to left field for a two-run double that put the Nats ahead, 2-1 after two.
A two-out HBP on Joe Ross brought Jayson Werth up with two on and and the veteran outfielder flat-crushed a 3-1 fastball, hitting a line drive, three-run home run to left. 5-1 Nationals. 31-pitch frame, 47 total after two.
Bryce Harper's third home run in three days was his 34th of the season and the opposite field blast put the Nats up 6-1 in the third.
• Manny Banuelos' Line: 2.0 IP, 5 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 3 Ks, 2 HRs, 55 P, 31 S, 1/0 GO/FO.
3. Random Game Notes: Bryce Harper collected his 500th career hit and 100th run scored of the season in last night's win over the Braves.
• Harper is the fourth active player to reach 500 hits before his 23rd birthday, joining Alex Rodriguez, Starlin Castro and Mike Trout.
• Last night's win was the Nationals' ninth straight over the Braves in the nation's capital, setting a record for the longest win streak against a divisional opponent in D.C.
Pre-game weather check: 81 degrees & sunny. Let's play ⚾️, shall we? pic.twitter.com/XX1nVXubSg— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 6, 2015
• The Nationals are currently 12-3 against the Braves this season.
• Harper has reached base safely in 16 of his last 17 games, going 22 for 53 over that stretch (.415 AVG).
• Harper started the series finale with Atlanta ranked first in the NL in AVG (.337), OBP (.469), SLG (.647), runs scored (100) and Wins Above Replacement (8.3 fWAR).
• Ryan Zimmerman, who was a late scratch, has a 10-game hit streak going after last night.
• In today's Nationals-themed "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment, Ian Desmond has a .304/.367/.553 line with eight doubled, a triple, 10 HRs, 16 walks, seven stolen bases and 26 runs in 44 games since July 20th.
• Since Matt Williams moved Jayson Werth to the leadoff spot, the 36-year-old outfielder has put up a .333/.405/.606 line, going 22 for 66 with seven doubles, a triple, three home runs and eight walks in 16 games.
• A loss for the Atlanta Braves today, would leave them 0-10 in Nats Park this season, which would be just the 7th time since 1900 that a team was winless at an opponents' ballpark in a season in which they played at least nine games.
• The Braves' 11-game losing streak is their longest since they lost 12 straight between October 1987 and April 1988.
• In addition to 11-straight lossses, the Braves have dropped 18 of 19 and 33 of their last 42 overall.
• In today's Braves-themed "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment, A.J. Pierzynski is 52 for 159 (.327 AVG) since July 1st, with the second base average among major league catchers with a minimum of 150 at bats over that stretch.
2. Turning Point(s): WIlson Ramos has struggled with throws to the plate throughout his major league career, and it's not clear that catching Bryce Harper's throw from right in the first inning today would have allowed him to tag Nick Markakis out when a two-out single by Nick Swisher brought him in, but the Nationals' backstop missed the one-hopper as the Braves' leadoff man crossed the plate and Atlanta took a 1-0 lead early in the series finale in the nation's capital.
• Michael Taylor returned to the lineup this afternoon, and came through with a big hit in the second, yanking a first-pitch change to left for a one-out, two-run double that put the Nationals ahead, 2-1. A two-out HBP on Joe Ross kept the inning alive and Jayson Werth made Manny Banuelos pay with a two-out, three-run home run to left that put the Nationals up 5-1 after two in Nationals Park. Werth's 7th of 2015.
• Bryce Harper hit the second home run of the game off Banuelos in the first at bat of the third, taking an 0-2 slider to left for an opposite field blast that put the Nationals up 6-1.
1. The Wrap-Up: Sugar Ray Marimon took over on the mound for the Braves with a runner on and no one out in the third and issued a walk to Ian Desmond. An error on a Michael Taylor fly to right loaded the bases with one down, and an error on a Tyler Moore grounder made it 7-1 Nationals before Joe Ross grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Anthony Rendon hit a solo shot to left in the fourth, taking a 2-2 change from Marimon for a ride for his 4th HR of the season. 8-2 Nats.
Sammy Solis took over on the mound in the top of the fifth with two on and one out after a double by Jace Peterson and a walk by Freddie Freeman ended Joe Ross' outing and gave up an RBI single by A.J. Pierzynski. 8-3.
A sac fly to center by Nick Swisher made it 8-4 Nationals after four and a half.
Matt Wisler came on for the Braves in the bottom of the fifth. An error on a Michael Taylor grounder and a HBP on Clint Robinson put two on in front of Jayson Werth with two out, but a fly to center ended the frame. Still 8-4 Nats.
Casey Janssen got two outs (three outs if Michael Bourn hadn't reached on passed ball/strike three) in the top of the sixth before lefty Felipe Rivero came on to face Nick Markakis with a runner on second and two outs and got a line drive to the mound to end the frame.
Wisler walked Anthony Rendon in the first at bat of the Nats' sixth, but was stranded three outs later.
Rivero came back out for the seventh inning and retired the side in order in a 14-pitch frame.
Drew Storen came on for the Nationals in the eighth after the Nats came up empty in the home-half of the seventh and issued a leadoff walk to Nick Swisher before striking out the side in a 17-pitch frame.
Edwin Jackson gave up a two-out opposite field single to left by Bryce Harper, who took third base on a single to center by Yunel Escobar, but Ian Desmond K'd swinging to end the threat.
Jonathan Papelbon worked around a leadoff single for a scoreless ninth. Ballgame. 8-4 Nationals for the...
Nationals now 71-65