Reynaldo Lopez was wild in the zone in his first outing, and wild generally, walking five, in his second major league start, so, Dusty Baker was asked before Washington’s right-hander faced the Atlanta Braves tonight, what did he expect from the Nationals’ hard-throwing 22-year-old in start No. 3?
“If I was a betting man, last time he was out [of the zone], first time he was in, this should be right in the middle this time.
“That’s what I’m hoping for...”
Lopez, who started the season at Double-A ranked No. 5 on Baseball America’s list of the Nationals’ top prospects and worked his way up to Triple-A and the majors, with more strikeouts (122 in 102 ⅓ IP, 10.73 K/9) than any other pitcher in the Nationals’ system along the way, gave Baker exactly what the manager was hoping for tonight, with seven strong in which he allowed just one run in what ended up a 7-6 win.
Here’s how it happened:
Freddie Freeman, who started the series 106 for 324 (.327 AVG) with 11 HRs and 26 doubles against the Nationals in his career, made it 107 for 325 (.329 AVG) with a solo shot to right field on a 97 mph 1-0 fastball from Reynaldo Lopez with two down in the first, giving the Braves an early 1-0 lead. Freeman’s 23rd.
Washington’s Freddie Freeman, Daniel Murphy, put the Nationals up in the bottom of the first, however, taking a 90 mph 3-2 fastball out to right and just inside the foul pole for a two-run blast that made it 2-1 Nationals. Murphy’s 22nd.
Trea Turner tripled to right-center the first time up tonight, and scored on Murphy’s blast, but he went deep himself in at bat No. 2, taking a 3-2 sinker from Braves’ starter Rob Whalen for a ride into the seats in left field for a solo shot that made it 3-1 Nats. Turner’s 3rd.
Ben Revere tripled on a 1-1 changeup after Turner’s home run, and scored from third on a sac fly to center by Daniel Murphy to make it a three-run lead, 4-1 Nats.
Revere tripled again in the bottom of the fifth, driving Turner in from first, and an RBI groundout by Murphy gave the Nationals a five-run lead, 6-1.
Reynaldo Lopez was up to 92 pitches after he worked his way out of a two on, no-out jam in the Braves’ half of the sixth, then Jayson Werth extended his on-base streak to 42-straight games with a leadoff single in the Nationals’ half of the inning, and scored from second after a wild pitch when Danny Espinosa singled to right, 7-1.
• Reynaldo Lopez’s Line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 Ks, 1 HR, 100 P, 71 S, 9/4 GO/FO.
Sammy Solis took over on the mound in the top of the eighth and had the first three batters reach base with Erick Aybar singling and scoring on a hit to left by Matt Kemp, 7-2. Shawn Kelley finished off the eighth after Solis got a 4-6 DP for the first two outs of the frame.
Yusmeiro Petit gave up a leadoff triple by Jace Peterson in the ninth and made a bad decision trying to cut the lead runner down on a grounder back to the mound. Petit didn’t get the out at third, and a pinch hit RBI single by Jeff Francoeur got the Braves within four, 7-4.
Mark Melancon came on with runners on first and second and no one out and gave up a single to center by Ender Inciarte, 7-4.
Erick Aybar doubled to left to drive in two runs, but was thrown out at third, 7-6... that’s as close as the Braves got as Melancon locked it down.
Nationals evened things up and set up a rubber match tomorrow afternoon in the nation’s capital. 7-6 final. Ballgame.
Nationals now 68-47
- Atlanta stopped a seven-game losing streak to the Washington Nationals last night, and a 14-game losing streak in Nationals Park.
- The Braves’ win last night was their first in Nationals Park since 9/10/14.
- Washington’s loss last night left then 67-47 on the year, good for the third-best record in the majors, behind the Texas Rangers (69-48) and Chicago Cubs (73-41).
- The Nationals’ +133 run differential after last night’s 8-5 loss was still good for second-best in the majors, behind only the Cubs (+200).
- Atlanta is 7-3 in their last 10 after last night’s win, with wins in 11 of their last 17, and 26-33 overall on the road this season.
- In today’s Braves-themed “Fun with Arbitrary End Points” segment: After hitting three home runs last night, Atlanta’s hitters have 51 home runs in the last 52 games, going back to June 15th, after hitting 27 in their first 64 games.
- Erick Aybar, after going 1 for 5 last night, has hits in 16 of his last 17 games, over which he’s 24 for 66 (.364 AVG).
- Braves’ first baseman Freddie Freeman has scored at least one run in seven straight games.
- In 92 career games against the Nationals, Freeman is 106 for 324 (.327 AVG) with 11 HRs and 26 doubles, and he has a .324 career AVG in Nationals Park.
- Jayson Werth doubled in the seventh last night to keep his on-base streak going. He was up to 41-straight games reaching base heading into tonight’s game, with 37 hits, 30 walks and a .381 OBP over the course of his streak.
- Werth extended his streak to 42-straight games with a single in the sixth inning.
- In today’s Nationals-themed “Fun with Arbitrary End Points” segment: Nationals’ leadoff man Trea Turner is 22 for 69 with four doubles, two triples, two home runs, three walks, seven steals and 12 runs scored... in 16 games since July 24th.
Nationals now 68-47