Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Lefties John Lannan and Mike Minor face off in today's finale at Turner Field.
John Lannan starts for the Nats, looking to improve to 6-2 since his return from Class AA. Fellow left-hander Mike Minor starts for the Braves, who have fallen two games behind the Phillies in the NL East and desperately need a win.
Funky lineup for the Nats today. Adam Dunn and Roger Bernadina each get the day off. That leaves Nyjer Morgan batting second, Ian Desmond batting third and Alberto Gonzalez starting ... at first base.
Check back for updates throughout the afternoon...
NATIONALS at BRAVES
Where: Turner Field
Gametime: 12:10 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Mostly sunny, 83 degrees, Wind 4 mph out to LF
2B Danny Espinosa
CF Nyjer Morgan
SS Ian Desmond
3B Ryan Zimmerman
RF Michael Morse
C Wilson Ramos
1B Alberto Gonzalez
LF Justin Maxwell
P John Lannan
2B Omar Infante
RF Jason Heyward
3B Martin Prado
1B Troy Glaus
LF Matt Diaz
SS Alex Gonzalez
CF Melky Cabrera
C David Ross
P Mike Minor
12:10 p.m. -- This game is underway with a bunt from Danny Espinosa that was struck a bit too hard down the third-base line and made for an easy play from Martin Prado. Another nice September day in Atlanta, a little hazy but a very comfortable 84 degrees at first pitch.
12:14 p.m. -- Quick top of the first from Mike Minor. After the Espinosa bunt out, he got Nyjer Morgan on a slow roller to second and then caught Ian Desmond looking at a 2-2 fastball on the outside corner to end the inning.
12:21 p.m. -- And an equally quick bottom of the first from John Lannan. Though he allowed a two-out double to Martin Prado, Lannan was otherwise solid, snagging a comebacker off Omar Infante's bat, striking out Jason Heyward with a high fastball and getting Troy Glaus to pop out. Only 11 pitches in the inning for Lannan.
12:36 p.m. -- Justin Maxwell may not hit very many home runs, but when he does, he sure makes the most of it. Can you say grand slam? Yep. Maxwell tagged a pitch from Minor down the left-field and inside the foul pole, bringing Michael Morse, Wilson Ramos and Alberto Gonzalez home and putting the Nationals up 4-0 in the second. Justin has now hit nine home runs in his career; three of them have been grand slams.
12:43 p.m. -- Here's your stat of the day: Justin Maxwell has had four career plate appearances with the bases loaded. He's 3-for-4 with three grand slams, 12 RBI and a 3.750 OPS. Also, he's now hit three times as many grand slams in his career as Derek Jeter.
12:46 p.m. -- Your average, run-of-the-mill, 1-6-4-3 double play to end the second. John Lannan deflected David Ross' ball up the middle to Ian Desmond, who flipped to Danny Espinosa, who fired an absolute bullet to first to complete the play. Nearly took Alberto Gonzalez's left arm off. Nats lead 4-0 after two.
12:55 p.m. -- So after watching Nyjer Morgan hit two weak grounders and get thrown out each time, I decided to do a little research. Nyjer's batting average on balls hit to the infield is .114. For comparison's sake, Ryan Zimmerman's is .107. Shouldn't the speedy guy be beating more of those grounders out?
1:01 p.m. -- You don't see this every day, but Jason Heyward was just called out for making contact with a batted ball. He tried to avoid Martin Prado's smoked chopper to the right side of the infield but the ball still clipped his foot. So Heyward is out with Gonzalez getting the unassisted putout, Prado is credited with a single and Lannan is out of the third without allowing a run. Still 4-0 Nats.
1:22 p.m. -- It's 4-1 now in the top of the fifth after the Braves pushed across a run in the bottom of the fourth. Could've been worse, though, after Lannan issued a walk and gave up a double to start the inning. Battled back to get a foul out and two grounders to short, keeping the damage to a minimum.
1:54 p.m. -- Nats now up 4-2 in the bottom of the sixth as the Braves try to chip away at Lannan. Washington's bats have pretty much gone silent since Maxwell's grand slam in the second. Minor has departed and given way to the Atlanta bullpen, with Peter Moylan tossing a scoreless top of the sixth.
2:04 p.m. -- Lannan seemed to be teetering on the brink there in the sixth, putting two on with two out. But after a visit from Riggleman, the lefty came through and struck out David Ross to end the inning and preserve a 4-2 lead. Pitcher's spot is due up fifth in the seventh. Even if he doesn't come up, thinking Lannan's day is done.
2:13 p.m. -- I thought for a moment Lannan was going to stay in. But Riggleman waited until after John had thrown all his warmup pitches and Diory Hernandez was announced as the Braves' pinch-hitter before emerging from the dugout for today's double-switch. Joel Peralta will pitch. Adam Kennedy takes over at first base. And Bobby Cox counters with Eric Hinske pinch-hitting for the pinch-hitter.
2:21 p.m. -- So, Hinske skies a fly ball to shallow center. Nyjer comes charging in and calls off Desmond and Espinosa ... then loses the ball in the sun. Gift double for Hinske. Then Infante drops a bunt down the third-base line that requires a spectacular play from Zimmerman, who fired a perfect throw to first while parallel to the ground. Incredible. Now, Sean Burnett is in to face Heyward with a man on third and one out.
2:26 p.m. -- And Burnett comes up big again. He broke Heyward's bat and got a weak lineout to second. Then he struck out Prado with a nasty 2-2 breaking ball. Burnett has been really good for a while now, really establishing himself as a guy who get key outs late in a game, against lefties or righties.
2:32 p.m. -- Strange moment in the top of the eighth. After Kennedy led off with a single, Bobby Cox came out of the dugout to talk to plate umpire Paul Nauert, flashing a lineup card. All four umps wound up huddling with Cox and looking at the card. Maybe he was trying to say Kennedy wasn't properly double-switched in? Whatever the case, the umps had no problem with anything, so nothing's changed.
2:50 p.m. -- Five big outs from Sean Burnett (including a perfectly placed inside fastball to strike out Matt Diaz) has sent this game into the ninth with the Nats still leading 4-2. Barring a rally in the top of the inning to extend the lead, Drew Storen will come on for the ninth for his first save opportunity since August 29.
2:57 p.m. -- We go to the bottom of the ninth and here comes Storen trying to protect a 4-2 lead and secure his fourth career save. Bottom of the order due up for the Braves: Cabrera, Ross and a pinch-hitter.
3:04 p.m. -- Ballgame over. Nats win 4-2. Lannan improves to 8-7. Storen gets his fourth save in five tries. And the Nats take two of three from the contending Braves.