Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nats open the second half of the season at Turner Field.
Assuming the game starts on time -- NOTE: First pitch on Friday nights here is 7:35 p.m. -- Livan Hernandez will take the mound against longtime Nats nemesis Tim Hudson. Hudson, you'll recall, is 11-3 with a 2.00 ERA in 20 career starts against this franchise. That said, the Nats have beaten him in two of their last three encounters (last September and this May).
Davey Johnson is going with what has become his "A" lineup for the second-half opener, with one twist: Michael Morse and Laynce Nix have swapped spots. Before the break, when both guys played, Nix hit cleanup and Morse hit fifth. Tonight, Morse is in the 4-hole ahead of Nix.
Plenty of updates to come here, and be sure to tune into Comcast SportsNet at 6 p.m. for my live report from Turner Field...
NATIONALS at BRAVES
Where: Turner Field
Gametime: 7:35 p.m.
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 184
Weather: Chance of rain, 76 degrees, Wind 11 mph RF to LF
STARTING LINEUPS3:45 p.m. -- Oh, one other note I forgot to mention earlier: The Braves franchise (which dates all the way back to 1876 in Boston) is one victory shy of 10,000 in its history. Only four other franchises have surpassed that mark (the Giants, Cubs, Dodgers and Cardinals). Of course, the Braves are also only eight losses shy of 10,000. Only the Phillies have more.
CF Roger Bernadina
2B Danny Espinosa
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Michael Morse
LF Laynce Nix
RF Jayson Werth
C Wilson Ramos
SS Ian Desmond
P Livan Hernandez
CF Jordan Schafer
3B Martin Prado
RF Jason Heyward
1B Freddie Freeman
2B Dan Uggla
C David Ross
LF Nate McLouth
SS Alex Gonzalez
P Tim Hudson
7:00 p.m. -- Some injury updates before we get started: Stephen Strasburg faced live hitters Wednesday for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery, and team officials continue to say he could pitch for the Nats in September. Chien-Ming Wang, meanwhile, appears likely to be in the Nats' rotation within the next two weeks. Read my full article on both of those guys here. ... Meanwhile, Jerry Hairston is beginning a rehab assignment with Harrisburg tonight. He's slated to play seven innings tonight, then nine innings each of the next two days. ... Ivan Rodriguez took 50 swings off a tee here at Turner Field today and also played long toss from about 300 feet with Alex Cora. It's been barely a week since Rodriguez strained an oblique muscle, an injury that often requires a full month (or more) on the DL. Because Pudge caught it quickly, and because he's been able to keep himself in good shape, it looks like his DL stint won't be terribly long.
7:37 p.m. -- And we're underway with a ball from Tim Hudson to Roger Bernadina. There's a light mist falling as this game begins. Hopefully it doesn't turn into anything more than that.
7:46 p.m. -- And the Nats take a quick 1-0 lead. Back-to-back singles by Bernadina and Danny Espinosa put runners on the corners for Ryan Zimmerman with nobody out. Zim did manage to get Bernadina home, but he nearly grounded into a 6-4-3 double play doing it. He just barely beat the throw to first, not that it mattered in the end. Michael Morse flied out to center and Laynce Nix struck out to end the inning.
8:04 p.m. -- Yikes, the Nationals didn't exactly come out of the All-Star break playing clean baseball. The bottom of the first inning might have been their ugliest of the season. They were officially charged with three errors (two of them on Morse on one play, the other on Ian Desmond) and there were a couple more sloppy moments as well. Throw in four hits off Livan Hernandez, and the Braves have suddenly taken a 4-1 lead. Might have been worse, too, if not for a fantastic throw by Nix to get David Ross at the plate.
8:12 p.m. -- On the bright side, Jayson Werth started the second half of his season with a sharp single to left on a 3-2 pitch from Hudson. Best contact he's made in a long time. So that's an encouraging sign.
8:22 p.m. -- And now Morse is charged with his THIRD error in two innings, another booted grounder. Espinosa tried to recover but wound up throwing the ball away himself. Am I the only one who suddenly can't get the circus theme out of my head? Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-... Still 4-1 Braves after two.
8:44 p.m. -- This one is not headed in a pretty direction. Though he's been hurt by terrible defense behind him, Livo hasn't exactly dominated himself on the mound. He just allowed a two-out, RBI single to Hudson to make it 5-1 in the third and had a disgusted look on his face as he watched the ball get through the infield. Long way to go, obviously, but the first 33 percent of this game has been U-G-L-Y from the Nats' perspective.
8:58 p.m. -- The nightmare continues. Livo serves up a meatball of a 1-1 pitch to Martin Prado and watches it sail into the left-field bleachers. It's 6-1 after four, and Alex Cora is in the on-deck circle to pinch-hit for Livo to open the fifth inning. His final pitching line: 4 ip, 8 h, 6 r, 3 er, 1 bb, 1 k, 79 pitches, 49 strikes. Not his best outing.
9:17 p.m. -- Not that he's appearing in a situation of real consequence, but Ross Detwiler looked sharp in his first inning out of the bullpen. Two strikeouts and a groundball in the bottom of the fifth.
9:40 p.m. -- And wouldn't you know it, as soon as I type out something nice about Detwiler, he gets hammered in the bottom of the sixth. Three more runs on three hits and two walks. Throw in a grounder through Zimmerman's legs and the Nats have now committed five errors in six innings. Help me out here: Did I accidentally get into a DeLorean during the All-Star break and drive back to 2009? Great Scott! Making matters worse, Detwiler (after striking out Gonzalez to end the inning) limped off the mound. Trainer Lee Kuntz had already come out to look at him earlier in the inning. It's 9-1 after six and getting uglier by the minute.
10:15 p.m. -- If anyone's still watching this trainwreck of a ballgame, it's now 11-1 Braves in the middle of the eighth. Todd Coffey gave up two runs in the seventh. Wilson Ramos stranded the bases loaded in the eighth. Here's tonight's bang-your-head-against-the-wall stat: Jim Riggleman managed 75 games this season. The Nats committed an average of 0.53 errors per game. They committed an average of 0.33 errors during John McLaren's three days as skipper. In 16 games since Davey Johnson took over, they're averaging 1.13 errors per game.
10:33 p.m. -- That's your ballgame. Final score: Braves 11, Nationals 1. Never a good thing when you commit five times as many errors as you scored runs.