Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nationals shoot for their first four-game winning streak of the season tonight.
The Nats certainly wouldn't mind having their full starting lineup tonight against the Braves, because they'll need everything they've got against Tim Hudson. These numbers have been repeated several times here this season (every time he pitches against the Nats) but it has to be said again: Hudson OWNS the Nationals to the tune of a 10-1 record and 1.55 lifetime ERA.
Meanwhile, Jordan Zimmermann returns to the mound, trying once again to recapture the dominant form he displayed in Florida three weeks ago but that has eluded him since. Not that his status within the organization isn't already secure, but it would be nice to see at least one more glimpse of the good Zimmermann before the end of the season. He's only got one more start after this, so time's running out.
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, 89 degrees, Wind 12 mph out to CF
STARTING LINEUPS7:05 p.m. -- We're underway with a strike from Jordan Zimmermann to Omar Infante. Bigger crowd here tonight than earlier in the week, many of them Braves fans. Place still isn't half-full, though.
2B Danny Espinosa
CF Roger Bernadina
SS Ian Desmond
1B Adam Dunn
RF Michael Morse
LF Willie Harris
C Ivan Rodriguez
3B Alberto Gonzalez
P Jordan Zimmermann
2B Omar Infante
RF Jason Heyward
3B Martin Prado
C Brian McCann
1B Derrek Lee
CF Nate McLouth
SS Alex Gonzalez
LF Matt Diaz
P Tim Hudson
7:10 p.m. -- Strong top of the first for Zimmermann. Retired the side on 14 pitches, the last of which hit 96 mph on the stadium radar gun. The results have been mixed since his return from Tommy John surgery, but there's no debating his arm is in top shape.
7:14 p.m. -- News from the Braves: Jair Jurrjens (trying to pitch through a partial tear of the meniscus in his right knee) was unable to complete a bullpen session today. Which means he won't be able to start Sunday's series finale. Which means rookie right-hander Brandon Beachy will likely make his second career start instead. Things not looking good for Atlanta right now.
7:28 p.m. -- We've detailed all the struggles the Nationals have had against Hudson, but one of the few guys who has had success against him in the past is Adam Dunn. So while Dunn's solo blast halfway up the Red Porch seating area just now was impressive, it wasn't all that surprising. Dunn is now 10-for-29 with three homers in his career against Hudson. Nats lead 1-0 in the second.
7:38 p.m. -- Chance for the Nats there to really bust out against Hudson. They had two on with one out, but Alberto Gonzalez struck out. Then after Jordan Zimmermann singled to load the bases, Danny Espinosa hit a weak comebacker to end the second with the Nats leading only 1-0.
7:50 p.m. -- Zimmermann has allowed only one batter to reach base in three innings (Matt Diaz, who was hit by a pitch) but he's already thrown 53 pitches. Tough to go deep into a game at that rate, no matter how few hits you've surrendered.
7:57 p.m. -- Add another homer to Dunn's ledger against Hudson. Crushed a two-run shot into the left-field bullpen, his second of the night and 37th of the season. Nats now lead 3-0 in the third. (Chants of "Sign Adam Dunn!" coming from the upper deck now.)
8:08 p.m. -- Looks like Zimmermann only has 49 pitches entering the fourth. Scoreboard here had it wrong.
8:18 p.m. -- Very nice job by Zimmermann to get out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth. Struck out McLouth on a 93 mph fastball, then got Gonzalez to ground into a fielder's choice to end the inning without a run crossing the plate. Still 3-0 as we head to the bottom of the fourth.
8:46 p.m. -- We're now in the top of the sixth, the score now 3-1 and Zimmermann now out of the game. He allowed a solo homer to Infante off the left-field foul pole in the fifth, but otherwise was very sharp tonight in allowing only the one run on three hits. Tyler Clippard has come in out of the bullpen. I would have thought he'd be in line to pitch two innings, but his spot's due up third in the bottom of the sixth, so maybe not.
9:14 p.m. -- Look out, the Nats are on fire. They just plated three more runs in the sixth, getting a sac fly from Bernadina and then a huge, 2-out, 2-run single from Dunn against left-hander Mike Dunn. Up 6-1 heading to the seventh, this game might BE done now. Clippard, by the way, got to hit for himself and dropped a sacrifice. So he's back out for the top of the seventh protecting a five-run lead.
9:19 p.m. -- How about that Tyler Clippard, folks? He just retired all six Braves batters faced, striking out four in a row at one point. You already know he leads the staff with 11 wins. Did you know he now has 106 strikeouts, only trailing Livan Hernandez by four for the team lead in that category as well?
9:26 p.m. -- Ladies and gentlemen, we've got an inside-the-park home run from Willie Harris. Crushed a 3-2 pitch from Kyle Farnsworth off the center-field fence. The ball caromed far away from Nate McLouth, and as soon as Harris rounded second and saw where the ball was, he turned on the afterburners. Slid into home plate but didn't have to because the throw was high and wide. That's the second inside-the-parker in Nats history, the first one having come off Austin Kearns' bat in 2007. Meanwhile, the Nats now lead 7-1. And since the Phillies have already beaten the Mets, the Braves are six outs from staring at a seven-game deficit in the NL East with eight games to play.
9:42 p.m. -- Adam Dunn giveth and he taketh. Bad error on a routine grounder allows a run to score. But he's also got five RBI tonight, so he's at a +4 for the game. Alex Ovechkin would take that.
9:56 p.m. -- If the Braves fail to make the playoffs this season, the Nats will have played a significant role in making that happen. If they hang on to win here -- they're up 7-3 now in the bottom of the eighth -- they'll have won three of four against Atlanta in the last two weeks. And they'll be 9-7 against them for the season.
10:03 p.m. -- We go to the ninth, Nats up 8-3 and Miguel Batista coming out of the pen to pitch the ninth.
10:06 p.m. -- And Jim Riggleman just pulled his first quintuple switch of the season. Maxwell enters to play center field. Bernadina shifts from center to left. Harris shifts from left to right. Morse shifts from right to first base. Dunn takes a seat on the bench with Batista hitting in his spot.
10:14 p.m. -- Ladies and gentlemen: The Nationals have their first four-game winning streak of the season (in Game 154). They win 8-3. Zimmermann gets his first win of the year. Dunn is the offensive hero. The Braves are in serious trouble.