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The Nats struggled to get anything going
offensively in a 3-to-1 loss against the division-rival Atlanta Braves on
Saturday. The loss was Washington’s second in a row, enough to drop the 3-game
series. To add to the loss, catcher Wilson Ramos pulled his left hamstring
trying to scrap out an infield hit in the eighth inning. Ramos is being
evaluated, but the early word is the backstop could miss at least a couple of
Atlanta starter veteran Tim Hudson
held the Nats to one run on four hits over seven innings of work. Hudson’s
counterpart, the Nationals’ ace Stephen Strasburg was saddled with the loss
after allowing two unearned runs over six innings while striking out seven
batters. Both starters cruised through the first inning, each allowing a
baserunner but retiring the side unscathed. Braves second baseman Dan Uggla led
off the second inning with a single off Strasburg. Two outs later, a wild pitch
by Strasburg would allow Uggla to advance to second base – the Braves first
runner to reach scoring position.
Tim Hudson singled to left in the following at bat. Uggla
rounded third in an attempt to score, but left fielder Bryce Harper wasn’t
having it. The All-Star, becoming well-known for his cannon of an arm, fired a
strike to home plate, where Ramos promptly tagged Uggla, recording the final
out of the inning and ending the threat. In the second inning, the Nats bats again
failed to establish themselves early on, with first baseman Adam LaRoche
grounding into the team’s second double play in as many innings.
Strasburg initially looked to be
settling in during the third inning. The righty struck out B.J. Upton swinging
to start the frame and retired slugger Jason Heyward on a fly out. Then the
wheels momentarily fell off.
Justin Upton, off to a blazing start this season, reached first
base on a throwing error by Ryan Zimmerman. In Friday night’s game, also
against the Braves, a Zimmerman error allowed the two tying runs to score in
the ninth inning. The Nats would lose that game in extra innings.
Zim’s second miscue in as many days may have lost the Nats this
game as well. Atlanta catcher Evan Gattis immediately made the Nats pay for the
error, launching a two-run homer to center field. The two unearned runs would
be the only damage Strasburg allowed all day. Stras struck out Uggla to end the
frame – the pitcher’s third K of the day.
Strasburg would pitch six innings in the loss, limiting the
damage while the Washington offense was stifled by shutdown Atlanta pitching. Following
the Braves scoring, the Nats were sat down in order.
D.C.’s only scoring of the day came
off a Danny Espinosa solo shot to right field – his first of the year. Espi,
batting from the left side of the plate, got hold of a 85 mph cutter from the
right-handed Hudson. Danny has gotten off to a slow start this year, hitting
for a .162 avg. coming into today’s action. Connecting from the left side of
the plate, the switch-hitting second baseman’s more troublesome side, will
hopefully be a spark to give Espi some confidence going forward and help him
settle in to the season.
After the fifth inning home run, the Nats did not have another
baserunner – set down 1,2,3 in the four innings that would follow. The scrappy
Braves were able to work one more run out of the recently shaky Nat’s bullpen. After
Manager Davey Johnson brought in right-hander Ryan Mattheus to work the ninth
inning, the Braves’ Chris Johnson and Ramiro Pena immediately recorded singles
– both line drives to the outfield. Another single from B.J Upton would load
the bases with one out.
Heyward grounded into a force out,
but Johnson would score on the play. Mattheus ended the inning after getting
Justin Upton to ground out to Zimmerman.
What can be taken from this Nats loss? The offense simply didn’t
get the job done. Washington only had four baserunners and was 0-for-1 with
RISP. The Zimmerman error proved to be costly again as the Nats lose the series
against the Braves, giving the rival a three-game lead as they sit in first
place atop the NL East.
The Ryan Zimmerman errors may be some cause for concern. Ryan
dealt with discomfort in his throwing shoulder all last season. The former Gold
Glover was unable to make routine plays across the diamond, having to
find a new side-arm slot for him to avoid pain while throwing.
Off-season surgery was supposed to fix the issue and give
Washington a good-as-new third baseman. When the season began just two weeks
ago, there didn’t seem to be any reason to be worried about Zimmerman’s
shoulder and his fielding ability. While we here at Citizens of Natstown are
100% behind Zim and his remining at third base, don’t be surprised if some
eyebrows elsewhere start to rise after two costly miscues.