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Instant Analysis: Braves 2, Nats 1


Instant Analysis: Braves 2, Nats 1

Game in a nutshell: In the opener of a weekend series that could decide whether the Nationals run away with the NL East or whether the Braves make this thing interesting again, a big crowd at Turner Field was treated to a well-played, well-pitched ballgame that had a playoff feel to it. Ross Detwiler churned out six innings of one-run ball, pitching his way out of some jams.

Kris Medlen, meanwhile, blew away the Nationals lineup, striking out 13 over seven spectacular innings. Bryce Harper finally broke through against the fast-emerging ace of the Atlanta staff, clubbing a solo homer to left in the sixth inning to knot the game up 1-1. It remained that way until the bottom of the ninth, when the Braves got a couple of one-out singles off Sean Burnett, setting the stage for a dramatic finish.

Burnett got pinch-hitter Tyler Pastornicky to hit a sharp grounder to short, and Ian Desmond had a play at the plate. But Desmond's throw sailed way wide, and Andrelton Simmons slid across with the winning run, dropping the Nats' lead in the NL East to 7 12 games.

Hitting highlight: They didn't do much of anything at the plate against Medlen and the Braves bullpen, but Harper's performance certainly stood out. He singled in the first inning, drew a walk in the third and then belted the first pitch he saw in the top of the sixth to left field for a solo homer.

That was Harper's 19th of the season (second-most ever by a teenager, trailing only Tony Conigliaro's 24) and his seventh over his last 20 games. During that span, Harper is also hitting .360, raising his season average up to .266. This surge may just be getting the 19-year-old back into the NL Rookie of the Year race.

Pitching highlight: He wasn't as dominant as Medlen -- that would've been difficult to pull off -- but Detwiler was just as effective. He attacked the strike zone from the start, made some big pitches when he had to and was helped by some stellar defense behind him (especially Roger Bernadina in left field).

In the end, he gave the Nationals exactly what they needed: a big-time outing in a big game. If this was a preliminary test for Detwiler in advance of a potential postseason start, he passed with flying colors.

Key stat: Ryan Zimmerman failed to drive in a run tonight, snapping his streak of consecutive games with at least one RBI at nine (a franchise record).

Up next: The series continues at 4:05 p.m. Saturday when Edwin Jackson takes the mound in his hometown, facing right-hander Tommy Hanson. Fox will televise the game to a regional audience.

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Nationals sign former Orioles All-Star catcher Matt Wieters

Nationals sign former Orioles All-Star catcher Matt Wieters

The Washington Nationals have signed former Orioles All-Star catcher Matt Wieters to a one-year deal with a player option for a second year, according to multiple reports. 

Wieters spent the first eight years in the Majors with the Baltimore Orioles, being named to the AL All-Star team four times and winning two gold glove awards. Last season the switch-hitting catcher posted a .243 average with 17 homers and 66 RBI.  

The Nationals have been in the market for catchers all offseason after Wilson Ramos left for Tampa Bay in free agency. The team traded for former Padres catcher Derek Norris, whose role is now in question. The Nationals still have Jose Lobaton on the roster as a strong defensive backup catcher who has a proven rapport with many of the pitchers in the Nationals rotation. Wieters had been linked to the Nationals all offseason because of the team's need a the position and because of the Nationals close relationship with Wieters' agent Scott Boras. 

The only significant time that Wieters has missed due to injury in his career came in 2014-15 when he had Tommy John surgury. Prior to that surgury, however, Wieters had played in at least 130 games for four straight seasons and became a large part of the Orioles' identity. 

The 30-year-old backstop will give the Nationals lineup more depth and power. Wieters had three consecutive 20-homer seasons from 2011-13 and since 2009 when his career began, he ranks fifth among catchers in all of baseball in home runs with 117. 

Related: Nationals 2017 promotional schedule includes snow globes and fedoras

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Nationals 2017 promotional giveaways include snow globes and fedoras

Nationals 2017 promotional giveaways include snow globes and fedoras

The Washington Nationals recently released the dates of their promotional days and giveaways this season, and there are some real gems in this schedule.

Among the standard bobblehead giveaways — Daniel Murphy on April 14, Trea Turner on May 12 and Tanner Roark on June 9 — and the highly recommended Pups in the Park days — April 29, May 13, June 10, June 25, September 7 and September 30 — pick the right game and you could get a snow globe, an American flag shirt or even a fedora. Seriously.

On May 24’s game against the Mariners, the first 25,000 fans will get a Max Scherzer snow globe, which has the potential to be the coolest knickknack in your house. Or on June 14 against the Braves — oddly not closer to the Fourth of July — Budweiser is behind the first 15,000 21-and-up fans getting an American flag tank top.

But truly the most unique item on this list is the Nationals-themed fedora, which will go to the first 25,000 fans at the Brewers’ July 26 matchup. How the Nats landed on this promotional item remains a mystery, but if you like hats beyond a traditional baseball cap, this is the game to attend.

Other cool or oddball promotions include the Nats Magic 8-Ball game April 3, the Chewbacca Koozie day May 27, Bryce Harper action figure day August 29 and Oktoberfest beer stein day Sept. 29.

Here's the complete list of the team's promotional days and giveaways

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