Instant analysis: Braves 11, Nats 10

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Instant analysis: Braves 11, Nats 10

Game in a nutshell: In the latest installment of "The Biggest Series in Nationals history," the locals got off to a brilliant start they couldn't have scripted any better. Michael Morse and Ryan Zimmerman launched three-run homers and Steve Lombardozzi added a two-run double that gave the Nats an insurmountable 9-0 lead after five innings, with Stephen Strasburg cruising along on his 24th birthday. Chalk up a huge victory for the Nats ... er, maybe not. Strasburg gave up four runs in the sixth before getting yanked. Drew Storen and Sean Burnett made a mess of the eighth inning, combining to surrender four more runs and give the Braves life. And the Tyler Clippard finished off the meltdown by giving up a two-run triple to Michael Bourn in the top of the ninth that completed the Braves' stunning, 10-run rally. It was the largest blown lead in franchise history, and it left everyone inside Nationals Park stunned and dejected ... er, maybe not.

Danny Espinosa crushed a 1-0 pitch from Craig Kimbrel into the left-field bullpen to bring the Nats back from the dead and force extra innings. But the Braves never let up and pushed across the winning run in the 11th when Zimmerman followed a fantastic pick at third base with a terrible throw to first base and Ian Desmond couldn't make an incredible, over-the-shoulder catch of Paul Janish's blooper. The Nats went down in the bottom of the 11th and wound up suffering a crushing defeat after all.

Hitting highlight: Which three-run blast should we pick: Morse's first-inning bomb or Zimmerman's fourth-inning jack? Let's just talk about both. Morse's was something to behold, a 465-foot moonshot that struck the railing behind the picnic benches in the Red Porch. According to ESPN's Hit Tracker, it was the longest home run in Nationals Park history. Zimmerman's homer wasn't quite as titanic, but it did produce the night's loudest explosion from the crowd of 34,228. And it was merely the latest in a string of big hits from the third baseman, who since receiving his much-ballyhooed cortisone shot on June 24 has nine homers, 25 RBI, a .368 batting average and a .782 slugging percentage.

Pitching lowlight: Take your pick of late-inning relievers. Storen didn't retire either of the two batters he faced in the eighth. Burnett then walked two batters in a row, one with the bases loaded, and gave up a pair of RBI singles. But the biggest meltdown came from Clippard in the ninth. He walked Uggla to start things off, uncorked a wild pitch and then plunked the .118-hitting Janish in the back. That set the stage for Bourn's game-changing triple off the top of the right-field fence. It was Clippard's fourth straight shaky outing, and it's got to leave the Nationals deeply concerned.

Key stat: With an 0-for-5 showing, Bryce Harper saw his batting average fall to .269. That's the lowest it's been since May 25.

Up next: It's going to be a beautiful Saturday in the nation's capital ... so let's play two! Yep, we'll have a day-night doubleheader between the Nats and Braves. Edwin Jackson faces Ben Sheets in the 1:05 p.m. opener, then John Lannan makes his season debut against Randall Delgado in the 7:05 p.m. nightcap.

NL East: Barry Bonds wouldn't take picture with Dodgers star Pederson

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NL East: Barry Bonds wouldn't take picture with Dodgers star Pederson

Apparently being an MLB All-Star and home run derby runner-up is not enough for Marlins hitting coach Barry Bonds to take a picture with you.

That's according to Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson, a 2015 NL All-Star. He said he tried to take a picture with Bonds before a Marlins-Dodgers game last month and got rejected.

Ouch. Pederson described the interaction on Fox Sports Live and it sounds like he was pretty surprised by Bonds' reaction. Then again, who wouldn't be? It seems like a simple request.

Many athletes current and former take pictures with fans all the time and those are just fans. It would seem even more likely to get that picture if you are part of their fraternity as a pro ball player.

Here is Pederson describing the exchange on FS1:

[Via Sports Illustrated]

Daniel Murphy owns up to costly error after loss to Mets

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Daniel Murphy owns up to costly error after loss to Mets

The margin for error is always going to be slim when you're facing your most closely-matched division rival and when they've got a pitcher as lethal as lefty Steven Matz on the mound, and on Wednesday it was a mistake by Daniel Murphy at second base that loomed large in a 2-0 Nationals loss to the New York Mets.

With the Nats down a run in the seventh inning and Mets infielder Matt Reynolds on first base, first baseman Eric Campbell smacked a hard groundball to Murphy at second. It shot up to the left of his glove and through his legs into center field.

That put runners on the corners with one out and set up an RBI single to left field by Mets catcher Rene Rivera. The score was then 2-0 and that would hold until the final out was made.

After the game Murphy brought up his mistake on his own when asked an unrelated question. 

"I misplayed another groundball, which just needs to stop happening. I just need to work harder on that," Murphy said of his team-high fifth error of the season.

Murphy came to the Nats with a reputation for subpar defensive play and this was the most obvious case so far of it affecting the outcome of a game. Though the Nats didn't score any runs on the day, Murphy explained how he thinks his mistake altered the momentum and scope of the contest.

"I think it was a double play ball and [Tanner Roark] should have gotten out of the inning. Then it was 2-0 and it just changes our approach from an offensive perspective," he said.

Murphy was asked if the ball took a bad bounce and he declined to go there, instead referring to the sequence as a "bad play by me."

His manager, Dusty Baker, didn't fault Murphy for the loss and instead focused on the dominant performance by Mets starter Steven Matz.

"Errors are part of the game," Baker said.

Baker, of course, can live with the occasional error as long as Murphy is atop the majors with a .394 batting average. Murphy's OPS is 1.043 and he's on pace for a career-high in homers. He's been as important to the Nationals' first-place start through 47 games as anybody.

Murphy knows defense is an area of game that needs improvement and Baker is not too concerned about it at this point.

"Murph works hard at it, he works very hard and he takes it hard when he doesn't make the plays," Baker said.

Matz too much as Mets take finale and series against Nationals

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Matz too much as Mets take finale and series against Nationals

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 2-0 loss to the New York Mets on Wednesday afternoon at Nationals Park.

How it happened: Facing any pitcher for the first time can be a challenge, especially when that foe is an emerging star lefty with a mid-90s sinker that dives over the plate like a fighter jet.

Mets southpaw Steven Matz has had his way with the Nationals on Wednesday, just as he has with the rest of the league in his brief MLB career. He went eight efficient, shutout innings with just four hits allowed, at times retiring Nationals hitters with leisure. Perhaps they'll have better luck the next time they see him, but this simply wasn't their day.

Matz outdueled Nats starter Tanner Roark, who was pretty good himself. He went seven innings with two runs allowed, only one of them earned. The second came home after a Daniel Murphy error that ultimately proved a costly one.

What it means: The Mets have evened up the season series at 3-3 and cut the Nats' division lead back to a half-game in the NL East. The Nationals fell to 28-19 on the year with the St. Louis Cardinals up next.

Roark strong again: Roark was excellent in his first meeting with the Mets of this season despite giving up an early run on a homer to David Wright in the first inning. The right-hander settled in after that and at one point retired eight in a row from the second through the fourth. Roark did let another run in in the seventh inning before he was removed, but it wasn't earned. That's thanks to Murphy's error on a hard-hit groundball right to him by Eric Campbell. Murphy couldn't corral it and that set up runners on the corners for Rene Rivera, who singled to left field to make it 2-0 Mets. It was Murphy's fifth error this season, most on the Nationals.

Roark finished with seven innings and one earned run on five hits, two walks and five strikeouts. He threw 113 total pitches and made it at least seven innings for the fifth time in 10 starts this season. It was the sixth time he's gone at least six innings with one earned run or less allowed. It's also the fourth time this season he's reached the 110-pitch mark.

Matz tough in first matchup: This was the first time the Nationals had ever faced Matz and the lefty certainly didn't take it easy on them. Matz dazzled with a mid-90s sinker combined with a sharp slider to go eight shutout innings. He was pulled after throwing 104 pitches with seven strikeouts and just four hits and a walk allowed. Michael Taylor, Wilson Ramos, Clint Robinson and Murphy were the only ones to get hits off of him. Matz held Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon to a combined 0-for-9 with three strikeouts. Before giving up the hit to Robinson - who pinch-hit in the eighth - he had retired 16 straight batters. He allowed Robinson's single with two outs and then got Bryce Harper - who also pinch-hit - to ground out and end the frame.

Murphy nears Nats record: Murphy may have committed a costly error, but he also inched closer to setting a Nationals record for most hits in a single month with an infield single in the first inning on Wednesday. That gave him 38 hits in the month, just two away from Denard Span's record of 40 set in August of 2014. The Nats have six more games left in May, plenty of time for Murphy to break it. And if he does, he will have set a Nats hits record in just his second month with the team.

Schu ejected: Nats hitting coach Rick Schu was tossed by home plate umpire D.J. Reyburn in the bottom of the fifth for arguing about the strike zone. It happened after Chris Heisey struck out looking against Matz. Schu was seen on the TV replay in the dugout taunting Reyburn by waving his hand over his head. It was Schu's first ejection as a member of the Nats' coaching staff.

Good attendance: The Nats and Mets drew 38,700 for the series finale on Wednesday. That's a sellout and the second-largest crowd of the season so far at Nationals Park.

Up next: The Nationals turn their attention towards the St. Louis Cardinals, who come to Washington for a four-game series through the weekend. Thursday's series opener will pit Joe Ross (3-4, 2.70) against Cardinals right-hander Mike Leake (3-3, 4.07) with a 7:05 p.m. first pitch.