Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Birthday boy Stephen Strasburg faces the Braves tonight at Nationals Park.
And who better to send to the mound for tonight's opener than Stephen Strasburg, who will be pitching on his 24th birthday (and hoping to have better luck against the Braves than he did earlier this month in the record heat at Turner Field)? Ian Desmond, meanwhile, is back in the Nationals' lineup for the first time in six days, an encouraging sign. And throwing out the ceremonial first pitch: None other than ex-Nationals closer Chad Cordero.
The forecast isn't great -- good chance of storms throughout the afternoon and evening -- but with a doubleheader scheduled tomorrow, they'll do whatever they can to try to get this one in.
Check back for updates...
ATLANTA BRAVES at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 185
Weather: Storms, 79 degrees, Wind 12 mph in from CF
LF Steve Lombardozzi
CF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
RF Michael Morse
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
C Jesus Flores
RHP Stephen Strasburg
CF Michael Bourn
LF Martin Prado
RF Jason Heyward
3B Chipper Jones
1B Freddie Freeman
C Brian McCann
2B Dan Uggla
SS Paul Janish
RHP Tommy Hanson
HP Tom Hallion (cc)
1B Brian O'Nora
2B Chad Fairchild
3B Alfonso Marquez
6:30 p.m. -- Your weather update: Looks like we'll be good to start on-time, but there could be storms arriving from the west at some point during the game.
7:07 p.m. -- And we're underway with a ball from Stephen Strasburg to Michael Bourn. Chad Cordero got a nice ovation when he took the mound to throw the ceremonial first pitch to Drew Storen. (It was high and tight, unfortunately.)
7:13 p.m. -- A solid top of the first for Strasburg. He did allow a two-out single to Jason Heyward but finished strong by striking out Chipper Jones on a nasty, 90 mph changeup down and away.
7:31 p.m. -- Sweet Fancy Moses! Michael Morse hit a home run in the bottom of the first to a place I've never seen a ball hit in this park: off the railing just in front of the back wall at the Red Porch in left-center. What a bomb. Based on the stadium map at hittrackeronline.com, the ball landed about 440 feet from the plate, which means its actual distance is probably a bit longer. Best part was that it came with two men on base, so the Nats have jumped out to a 3-0 lead after one.
7:45 p.m. -- Strasburg has given up a couple of hits and a walk so far, but he's through two scoreless innings, striking out both Paul Janish and Tommy Hanson to end the second. He's at 38 pitches (21 strikes) through two.
8:03 p.m. -- Remember how Jordan Zimmermann talked the other night about how last season (in his first year back from Tommy John surgery) his command would be "hit or miss" from start to start? Well, it sure looks like Strasburg is having a "miss" night right now. He walked three guys in a span of six batters, which has got to be a first for him. At one point, he'd thrown 28 strikes and 27 balls. At the same time, he's managed to complete three scoreless innings. But he's certainly not in top form tonight.
8:13 p.m. -- So it turns out Morse's homer went 465 feet (according to ESPN's Steve Berthiaume, via hittrackeronline.com) and that is indeed the longest home run in Nationals Park history. Wow.
8:41 p.m. -- Barkeep: Another big round of cortisone shots for everyone! Zimmerman destroys a 3-2 pitch from Hanson into the left-field bleachers, and Nationals Park explodes as the home team takes a 6-0 lead in the fourth. That's Zim's ninth homer and 23rd, 24th and 25th RBI in 21-plus games since his cortisone shot.
8:49 p.m. -- Strasburg's command has gotten much better as this game progresses. He's thrown 17 of his last 26 pitches for strikes and is now through five scoreless innings. It's starting to rain now, but for what it's worth, this game is official.
9:08 p.m. -- By the way, be sure to read my Chad Cordero story here.
9:23 p.m. -- Well, Strasburg's night ended on a down note. He got tagged by McCann for a two-run homer, then gave up a single to Uggla and a double that very nearly was a homer to Eric Hinske. And that brought Davey Johnson out of the dugout in search of the ball. Strasburg's final birthday line: 5.1 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 5 K. Not his best. And it's now a 9-4 game as we go to the bottom of the sixth.
9:45 p.m. -- Michael Gonzalez gets through the seventh unscathed. It remains 9-4 at the stretch. Paid attendance tonight of 34,228, many of whom left early because of the rain.
9:56 p.m. -- Interesting, Drew Storen is in to pitch the eighth. It's his second straight game on the mound. And since I can't imagine Davey will let him go three days in a row right off the DL, that would seem to take him out of the equation altogether for tomorrow's doubleheader.
10:21 p.m. -- Well, this whole game just turned in a hurry. Storen faced two batters and let both reach, so Davey pulled the plug and turned to Sean Burnett. That didn't work out so well, because the lefty proceeded to issue back-to-back, two-out walks (one with the bases loaded) and then back-to-back RBI singles. All of a sudden, a 9-0 laugher has turned into a 9-8 nailbiter. Yikes.
10:30 p.m. -- OK, here we go: It'll be Tyler Clippard trying to protect a one-run lead against Uggla, Janish and a pinch-hitter. Break out the bourbon and Maalox.
10:43 p.m. -- Oh my lord. Did that really just happen? The Braves have come all the way back from a 9-0 deficit to take a 10-9 lead in the ninth inning on Michael Bourn's two-run triple off the top of the right-field wall.
10:47 p.m. -- Well, Desmond, Espinosa and Leon will now have to put together a rally against the best closer in baseball this season: Craig Kimbrel.
10:52 p.m. -- Sweet Fancy Moses! Espinosa ties it up with a bomb into the left-field bullpen!
10:56 p.m. -- Extra innings? In a 10-10 game? With a doubleheader tomorrow? Why not?
11:02 p.m. -- Tom Gorzelanny brings some sanity to the proceedings. So we go to the bottom of the 10th, and lefty Eric O'Flaherty is in to face Tyler Moore, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman. That's a good matchup for Moore and Zim, not so good for Harper.
11:10 p.m. -- Man, great play by 40-year-old Chipper Jones to snag Zimmerman's hard shot down the line and make a throw to first that was ... just a split-second late and kept the Nats alive. Then a great kick save from O'Flaherty deflects the ball to Uggla and gets LaRoche to end the 10th. Let's go to the 11th...
11:22 p.m. -- Oof. Zim makes a great stop of Uggla's hard smash to his left to lead off the 11th, then fires the ball to the rolled-up tarp. Killer error, and it wound up giving the Braves the lead again after Desmond couldn't make what would have been an incredible, over-the-shoulder catch of Janish's blooper. So now it's 11-10, and the Nats will need to rally again, this time off old pal Chad Durbin.
11:28 p.m. -- It's over. What could have been one of the most stirring wins in Nats history instead is perhaps their most crushing loss ever. Final: Braves 11, Nats 10 in 11.