Nats-Braves LIVE game thread - 7:35 p.m.

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Nats-Braves LIVE game thread - 7:35 p.m.

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In his seemingly never-ending quest to find a competent left fielder -- not to mention a competent leadoff man -- Davey Johnson's roulette wheel has stopped on Steve Lombardozzi. The rookie infielder has made a strong case for himself, both at the plate (he's hitting .317 with a .385 on-base percentage) and in the field (he's made a couple of nice plays while learning the outfield on the fly).

So tonight, in the opener of perhaps their biggest series of the season to date, the Nationals will have Lombardozzi in left field and leading off for the third time in four games. It worked twice in Philadelphia; might as well give it a shot in Atlanta.

It'll take a strong offensive performance from the Nats' lineup, top to bottom, to beat Tim Hudson (owner of a 13-3 record and 2.09 ERA in his career against them). And it'll take a strong start from Ross Detwiler (who has allowed 10 earned runs over his last 10 innings).

Unfortunately, I'm not in Atlanta for this weekend showdown, but I will be in Miami starting Monday for the Nationals' first series at Marlins Park. Until then, enjoy the big game and the conversation...
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at ATLANTA BRAVES
Where: Turner Field
Gametime: 7:35 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 184
Weather: Partly cloudy, 86 degrees, Wind 1 mph in from RF

NATIONALS (26-18)
LF Steve Lombardozzi
RF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
CF Rick Ankiel
C Jesus Flores
LHP Ross Detwiler

BRAVES (26-20)
CF Michael Bourn
3B Martin Prado
1B Freddie Freeman
2B Dan Uggla
LF Matt Diaz
RF Jason Heyward
C David Ross
SS Jack Wilson
RHP Tim Hudson

UMPIRES
TBA

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Bryce Harper explains 10th inning ejection vs. Rockies: 'It's not a strike'

Bryce Harper explains 10th inning ejection vs. Rockies: 'It's not a strike'

Bryce Harper is not one to back down when it comes to arguments with umpires, even after he's been ejected from a game and has time to cool down and collect his thoughts.

So, it should probably come as no surprise that on Saturday after he was tossed in the 10th inning of the Nats' loss to the Colorado Rockies, Harper referred to home plate umpire Mark Winters' called strike three as a "mistake." 

Here is Harper, in detail, on the call that led to him throwing his helmet to the ground and confronting Winters, who immediately sent him to the showers:

"You're in a game like that, 4-4 in the 10th, you get to a 2-2 count. He throws a pitch off the plate which they said was a strike, which was a ball. I was reading it all the way in. If you look at the tape, I was looking down at the ball the whole way into the glove and it was just, you know, it was off the plate. I could possibly see one more pitch and maybe hit a homer or a double or walk. I could even strike out. But I just wanted to see that last pitch and I never got there. It just shouldn't happen. Just bad [call] there. It's not a strike," he said.

"You don't want an umpire to make a mistake in that big of a situation. That's just not good. I wanted to see that last pitch. We could have possibly not played the 11th or the 12th or whatever. I mean, getting on base with [Anthony] Rendon behind me would have been huge as well, possibly could have stolen second, a ball hit to the ride side and you never know."

On if Harper regretted his actions, he did concede it was not a good time to be tossed, given the game was tied and the Nats had a chance to beat the Rockies.

"I know we had a short bench. I think going into it you don't ever want to get ejected," he said.

Manager Dusty Baker didn't offer a harsh assessment to Harper's ejection. He basically described it as just part of the game.

"Everybody blows up from time to time," he said. "These things happen. Especially it happens this time of year tempers are short. It’s hot, played a lot of games, been around the same people for a long period of time. This is the time of year when tempers do flare up.”

Outfielder Jayson Werth was brief in his comments on Harper. But did note how this isn't the first time for the reigning MVP. Harper has now been ejected from eight games in his career.

"I’ve been kicked out of one game my whole career. Bryce, on the other hand, has been kicked out of multiple," he said.

[RELATED: Harper ejected after arguing balls and strikes]

SCROLL DOWN FOR MORE NATIONALS STORIES

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Nationals tap Lucas Giolito to start Sunday against Colorado Rockies

Nationals tap Lucas Giolito to start Sunday against Colorado Rockies

The Nationals have chosen right-hander Lucas Giolito to start on Sunday against the Colorado Rockies, as their revolving door of rookies making spot starts continues.

Giolito, 22, last pitched for the Nationals on July 24 against the San Diego Padres. He has made three big league starts this season with six earned runs allowed on 12 hits and nine walks in 11 total innings. 

Giolito has faced the Padres once and the Mets twice. On Sunday, he will see a lineup that is much more formidable in the Rockies.

"I’m hoping he throws up a gem against a very tough lineup," manager Dusty Baker said.

Since his last MLB start, Giolito has pitched five times for the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs. He gave up nine earned runs in 22 2/3 innings during that stretch.

A former 16th overall pick, Giolito is ranked by many outlets as the top pitching prospect in baseball. He is the top prospect overall in the Nationals minor league system.

Giolito made his MLB debut against the New York Mets on June 28.

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Orioles pitching continues to go south in loss to Yankees

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USA TODAY Sports

Orioles pitching continues to go south in loss to Yankees

NEW YORK—After the Orioles returned from their longest road trip of the season with a 5-5 record, many of the teams’ fans were relieved. 

The Orioles were just a half-game out of first place, and the schedule was full of home games and lots of contests against American League East teams. 

It’s changed drastically in the past 12 games. The Orioles have lost eight of those games, and on Saturday, it was a 13-5 loss to the rejuvenated New York Yankees before 38,843 at Yankee Stadium.

Three times this season, the Orioles have given up 10 or more runs in consecutive games, and in the first two games of this series, they’ve given up 27 runs and 36 hits. 

It’s the first time they’ve allowed at least 18 hits in consecutive games since Aug. 11-12, 1993, and their ERA in the last 11 games is a frightful 8.23.

“It’s just not going for us. Nothing really, really to it. Just not getting any hits, clean hits. Just outhitting us. They’re doing what they need to be doing, and we’re not. Nothing’s falling for us. No excuses,” Manny Machado said. 

Dylan Bundy (7-5) allowed five runs on seven hits in four innings. T.J. McFarland, in his first game in nearly two months, gave up four on a pair of two-run homers in two-thirds of an inning, and the normally reliable Mychal Givens gave up three runs while retiring just one batter.

Givens allowed the first five New York (67-61) batters to reach in the sixth as the game got uncontrollably out of hand. 

“T.J. just got back from a two-month sabbatical. Brad and Zach [Britton] and Mychal pitched some big innings for us here recently, back to the Washington series. Other teams were good, too. All pitching everywhere is a little worn down some. That’s why you see some lopsided games. That’s a tough time, August. That’s why we try to be so diligent in April, May June and July, making sure you have your bullets this time of year. We will. We were able to stay away from people getting over-extended,” manager Buck Showalter said. 

Bundy was honest in assessing his outing.

“Not good. Anytime you can’t get through five or six innings, it’s not a quality start. I didn’t give my team a very good chance to win today. That’s my fault- got to get better next time,” Bundy said. 

The only Oriole pitcher to not allow a run was Donnie Hart, who has pitched 9 1/3 innings in his 10 big league appearances without being scored upon. 

“I can’t really pinpoint it. Obviously, I left a lot of balls up in the zone. And they were able to capitalize on it. It’s frustrating. I tried to come in and do a job there and give length to the bullpen and I wasn’t able to do that. It kind of stresses the rest of the guys down there in the pen. But you know, you get kicked down, you have to get back up and do it again tomorrow,” McFarland said.

Wunderkind Gary Sanchez hit his 11th home run in the fourth off Bundy, becoming the fastest major league player to hit 11. 

Starlin Castro, who had four hits, and Aaron Hicks hit two-run home runs off McFarland. 

Tommy Layne (1-1), the second of five New York pitchers got the win. 

Before the game, the Orioles added Julio Borbon, who started in center field because Adam Jones was out with a strained left  hamstring. The move temporarily left them with 11 pitchers, and a move could be made after the game to add another since the bullpen again had to cover major innings. 

In the past two games, Orioles relievers have thrown 10 2/3 innings, and nearly all the minor league pitchers on the 40-man roster have been used in the past eight days. Two that haven’t been are Oliver Drake and Jason Garcia, but both have been up during the season. 

In the third inning, the Orioles (70-59) had a 2-1 lead and thought they had something to celebrate when Chris Davis hit his 31st home run of the season to center field. 

It was the Orioles’ 200th home run of the season. This team has hit 200 homers faster than any other in franchise history except for the 1996 version, which hit a record 257 home runs. 

The Orioles have hit 200 or more home runs in five consecutive seasons. 

Mark Trumbo hit his 39th home run with one out in the fifth. Davis followed with his 32nd. 

“What’s going on right now doesn’t surprise anybody. They’ve all experienced it. The Yankees have, we have. It happens different times of the season. They’re all challenging times, and our guys always seem to respond well,” Showalter said.