Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
It should be another beautiful night for baseball at Nationals Park.
I had to go back and re-read my story from that night to recall the details of a deal that at the time looked like little more than Jim Bowden dealing a veteran rent-a-player to Atlanta for the stretch drive.
Well, give Bowden credit for that one. Or at least, give credit to whichever Nats scout recommended Atilano. Even though the then-21-year-old right-hander had just undergone Tommy John surgery three weeks earlier, someone felt his chances of returning from the injury were strong.
Tonight, Atilano goes for his third win in as many big-league starts, and he'll face his former organization.
Check back for updates throughout...
BRAVES AT NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Sunny, 75 degrees, Wind 10 mph in from RF
CF Nyjer Morgan
2B Adam Kennedy
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
C Ivan Rodriguez
LF Willie Harris
SS Ian Desmond
RF Roger Bernadina
P Luis Atilano
CF Nate McLouth
2B Martin Prado
3B Chipper Jones
C Brian McCann
1B Troy Glaus
RF Jason Heyward
LF Matt Diaz
SS Omar Infante
P Tommy Hanson
6:57 p.m. -- They just did a moment of silence for Ernie Harwell. Nice touch.
7:00 p.m. -- For those wondering about Willingham, Jim Riggleman said his day off has more to do with getting Willie Harris in the lineup than anything. But those who noted Willingham is 0-for-9 with four strikeouts in his career against Hanson (a stat my subscribers perhaps saw in my preview of this series) are correct.
7:07 p.m. -- We're underway, and it's not an encouraging start for Luis Atilano, who walked Nate McLouth on five pitches to get this one going.
7:15 p.m. -- The good news: Atilano didn't give up a run. Or a hit. The bad news: He walked two, went to a three-ball count on the first three batters and threw only seven of 19 pitches for strikes. Pudge bailed him out big-time by gunning down McLouth trying to steal second.
7:19 p.m. -- Small ball puts the Nats up 1-0. And somewhere, Manny Acta is rolling over in his grave. After Nyjer Morgan sends a ground-rule double over the drawn-in outfield, Adam Kennedy drops a sac bunt to move Morgan to third. Ryan Zimmerman's broken-bat fly ball to center is deep enough to score Nyjer, and just like that the Nats take the lead.
7:33 p.m. -- Atilano can't keep falling behind hitters all night and expect to get away with it. He walked Glaus to lead off the second, then after getting two outs went 3-0 on Omar Infante. After pumping in two strikes, Atilano hung a 76 mph curveball over the plate, and Infante just mashed it into the left-field bullpen. Braves now lead 2-1.
7:36 p.m. -- Surprising move for the Braves. Jason Heyward is out. Melky Cabrera now playing right field. Will let you know once we know what happened.
7:37 p.m. -- Ian Desmond to the rescue! The rookie leads off the bottom of the second with a solo homer to left, his third of the season and yet another extra-base hit for the young shortstop. Twenty-two of Desmond's 42 hits as a major-leaguer now have gone for extra bases. His career slugging percentage: .531.
7:43 p.m. -- And another double by Nyjer Morgan (his second in two innings) brings home another run. Nats up 3-2, and we've barely just begun tonight.
8:00 p.m. -- Looks like it's going to be one of those nights. The Braves tie the game again in the top of the third with a double by Prado and an RBI single by Chipper. Atilano is doing a little better job throwing strikes, but he's still not nearly as sharp as he was in his first two starts. It's now 3-3 going to the bottom of the third.
8:06 p.m. -- The update on Heyward: He came out of the game with a sore right groin. His status is day-to-day.
8:55 p.m. -- Just got back after spending the last couple innings in the stands shooting photos -- Springfield Fan: Thanks for introducing yourself. It was great to meet you -- so let's catch everyone up. It's currently 4-4 in the top of the sixth, and Atilano is laboring. Looks like he's on the verge of being pulled. Not nearly as effective tonight as he was the first two times out. Ivan Rodriguez, on the other hand, remains hot at the plate. He's 2-for-3 tonight, and his RBI single in the fifth scored Adam Kennedy to tie this game up once again.
9:09 p.m. -- Jim Riggleman spoke before the game about the improvement he's seen from Sean Burnett in the last couple weeks. "He's really gotten better and better every time," the manager said. Well, Burnett came in to replace Atilano with two on and one out in the sixth and promptly served up an RBI double to McLouth and then an RBI groundout to Martin Prado that required a spectacular barehand play from Desmond. The Braves retake a 6-4 lead, and the bloom on Burnett's rose has shrunk a bit.
9:22 p.m. -- Tonight's paid attendance: 15,616.
9:36 p.m. -- Things have slowed to a crawl here, and the Nats' bats have gone silent. After Hanson retired the side in the sixth, sidewinder Peter Moylan tossed a scoreless seventh, issuing only a two-out walk to Adam Dunn. Brian Bruney now on to pitch the eighth for the Nats and try to keep the deficit at two runs.
9:55 p.m. -- And the Nats are back in business. With two on and one out in the eighth, Riggleman elected to pinch-hit Josh Willingham for Justin Maxwell. Smart move. Willingham tagged a base hit to left, scoring two, and just like that we're tied 6-6 after eight. Pretty telling, though, about Maxwell's fading status on the roster that he would be pinch-hit for by a fellow right-handed hitter.
10:02 p.m. -- Let's go to the bottom of the ninth. Tie game. Zimmerman, Dunn and Pudge due up for the Nats.
10:09 p.m. -- I've said this before, and I'll repeat it here: Adam Dunn needs to swing the bat more. With one out, no one on and the game tied in the ninth, he just stood there watching a 2-2 pitch whiz by him for strike three. Dunn has five plate appearances tonight. He's put the ball into play only once: a third-inning popout. Three walks and that backwards "K" right there. Wouldn't you have rather seen him swing three times from his heels and try to walk off with a win? Instead, we're heading to the 10th, still tied 6-6.
10:14 p.m. -- Well, it was bound to happen eventually. Matt Capps has given up a run. A leadoff single by Troy Glaus in the 10th, followed by a sac bunt and a base hit to right by Matt Diaz brings home the go-ahead run and puts the Braves up 7-6. First run allowed by Capps in his last 10 appearances. This one, of course, was not a save situation.
10:27 p.m. -- That'll do it. The Nats suffer a tough 7-6 loss. Rallied to tie it in the eighth, only to lose it in the 10th.