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Nats come up short in taut loss to Braves


Nats come up short in taut loss to Braves

ATLANTA -- There were 41,000 in the stands, scoring opportunities were at a premium, the managers were trying to out-think each other in a late-game chess match and ultimately the outcome was decided by one key moment.

The calendar read Sept. 14. The vibe inside Turner Field felt more like October.

The Nationals can only be thankful the result -- a 2-1 heartbreaking loss to the Braves -- doesn't count as much as some potential future ones might.

"This is playoff baseball," said right fielder Jayson Werth, who certainly has experienced his share over the years. "Every team we play for the rest of the way is in the hunt and hungry, so these are the types of games we're going to play for the
next six weeks. We're going to have some tests, and I think we're up to the
challenge. More times than not, I think we're going to win that game."

The Nationals had every opportunity to win Friday night's taut series opener, getting six strong innings out of Ross Detwiler, Bryce Harper's 19th homer as a 19-year-old and some sterling defensive play from a variety of sources.

But they simply couldn't push across another run against a dominant Atlanta pitching staff that tallied 17 strikeouts, and then with the game tied in the bottom of the ninth they couldn't prevent the winning run from sliding across the plate.

That run scored as a result of an errant throw by Ian Desmond, who after fielding Tyler Pastornicky's bouncer to short made a desperate attempt to nab speedy rookie Andrelton Simmons at the plate. With his infield playing in and runners on the corners, reliever Sean Burnett got exactly what he wanted: a two-hopper to short. Desmond might have used a split-second more to set himself before making the throw but the margin for error was slim from the start.

"If I set, he's already sliding in celebrating," said Desmond, who was charged with an error on the play. "There was a probably 1-in-10 chance, and I didn't get him."

With that do-or-die play, the Nationals dropped the opener of this key series against their lone remaining division rival and saw their lead drop to 7 12 games. There was, however, no sense of dread inside the losing clubhouse, just an acknowledgment that the other guys played a little better and that there will be plenty more games like this before the 2012 season ends.

"You can't really hang your head too much," Werth said. "It was a tight game. Both teams battled, and they were able to push one across at the end. Seemed like they just kinda bled us to death at the end there and got us in a tough spot. ... We got a lot of big games coming the rest of the way. Nothing to be discouraged about."

If anything, the Nationals came out of this one encouraged by the performance of a young pitcher they're going to have to count on down the stretch. With six innings of one-run ball, Detwiler gave him team a chance and lowered his season ERA to 3.16.

That's the exact same ERA Stephen Strasburg had when his season came to an end, having thrown only 8 13 more innings than Detwiler (who ultimately would take Strasburg's spot in the Nationals' playoff rotation).

"Det showed me something," manager Davey Johnson said. "Going out there, he had some hard innings and went back out for the sixth and threw a great game."

The 26-year-old lefty seemed to find himself in trouble just about the entire night, giving up at least one hit in each of his first five innings. But aside from Freddie Freeman's leadoff double in the fourth, none of them came around to score.

It didn't hurt that Detwiler was helped out by his defense, especially Roger Bernadina, who in the fifth slammed into the left-field wall to rob Jason Heyward of what probably would have been an RBI double. Bernadina grabbed his right shoulder afterward and appeared to be in pain, but he remained in the game and said afterward he was fine after sacrificing his body to make one of the best catches of the year.

"You don't think about it," Bernadina said. "You just go on instinct. I know I was pretty close. The only play I could make was to jump to get it. I had to keep us in the game."

At the time of the play, the Nationals trailed 1-0, barely able to put the ball in play against Braves starter Kris Medlen, who struck out a career-high over seven dominant innings. Only Harper enjoyed any real success against him, singling in the first, drawing a walk in the third and then mashing a first-pitch curveball to left in the top of the sixth for the 19th homer of his rookie season.

The Nationals would record only one more hit the rest of the night, a two-out single by Kurt Suzuki in the seventh. They went down in order against lefty Eric O'Flaherty in the eighth, then were blown away by Craig Kimbrel in the ninth, with the Atlanta closer striking out Adam LaRoche, Desmond and Danny Espinosa in succession on only 10 pitches.

All told, the Nationals struck out 17 times. Of the 33 batters they sent to the plate, only 15 managed to put the ball in play.

"Good pitching beats good hitting every day of the week, and Medlen was good
tonight," Werth said. "Hit his spots, kept the ball down, pitched backwards at times and was aggressive in the zone, got strike one and pitched tough."

They may not be overwhelmed by an opposing pitcher quite this much come October, but the Nationals should expect more games like this. Playoff baseball almost always comes down to dominant pitching and the ability to take advantage of what few scoring opportunities you get.

The Nationals didn't have many opportunities Friday night, and they certainly didn't take advantage when they did. They couldn't find fault with much they did over the course of nine innings, yet they didn't win the game.

"No one in here is hanging their head," Desmond said. "More scratching their head than hanging their head, I guess."

Expect plenty more head-scratchers before this whole thing is over.

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Harper gets ejected before Nationals offense explodes in win over Brewers

Harper gets ejected before Nationals offense explodes in win over Brewers

WASHINGTON -- Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Lind each had two-run doubles in a seven-run eighth inning to help the Washington Nationals rally past the Milwaukee Brewers 8-5 on Wednesday night.

Bryce Harper was ejected for arguing with home plate umpire Chris Segal after striking out in the eighth inning with runners on the corners. Harper's single in the first inning extended his hitting streak to a career-high 18 games.

Tied 2-2, Zimmerman immediately picked up his fellow All-Star by lacing a liner into the right field corner. All-Star Daniel Murphy's homer pulled Washington within 2-1 in the seventh.

Jimmy Nelson struck out 10 and allowed one run and four hits in seven innings plus a batter. Jacob Barnes (3-2) entered with a 2-1 lead and surrendered two runs and two hits while recording only one out.

Ryan Madson (1-0) tossed one scoreless inning for the win.

Nelson exited after walking Matt Wieters leading off the eighth. Brian Goodwin's double off Barnes put two runners in scoring position with one out. After Wilmer Difo's single through the right side of the infield drove in the tying run, Harper faced reliever Josh Hader. Two pitches after visibly disliking a called strike, Harper struck out swinging. He slammed his bat to the ground and went nose-to-nose with Segal for his second ejection of the season.

Washington had six hits including four doubles in the eighth. Pedro Severino's RBI double put Washington up 8-2.

Murphy's homer ended a stretch of 17 1/3 scoreless innings for Washington.

Gio Gonzalez surrendered two runs on five hits and had eight strikeouts for Washington.

Santana's first inning blast, estimated at 476 feet, landed on the concourse beyond the left field stands.

Harper finished 1 of 4 and is batting .416 (30 for 72) during his streak. The All-Star also reached base safely in his 26th consecutive game, matching his career-best.

Milwaukee recalled Lewis Brinson from Triple-A Colorado Springs, where he was hitting .345 with 10 homers and 43 RBIs. He hit .097 in 31 at-bats last month with the Brewers in his only previous major league action. He homered on Wednesday night for his first in the majors.


Brewers: RHP Matt Garza (4-5, 3.83 ERA) was placed on the 10-day disabled list retroactive to Sunday with a lower right leg strain. Garza said he was optimistic he would miss only one start.

Nationals: Manager Dusty Baker did not have an update on whether RHP Stephen Strasburg would make his next scheduled start, but said the Nationals were taking a big picture approach. Strasburg left Sunday's appearance after two innings with forearm pain that doctors later diagnosed as a nerve impingement. Washington entered Wednesday with an 11 game lead in the NL East. . The Nationals reinstated OF Ryan Raburn from the bereavement list and promptly placed him on the 10day DL retroactive to July 23 with a left trapezius strain.


Brewers: RHP Michael Blazek (0-0, 0.00) takes Garza's place in the rotation for the 12:05 p.m. first pitch. It is Blazek's first career start after 108 relief appearances since 2013.

Nationals: RHP Max Scherzer (11-5, 2,26) allowed five runs and three home runs in his previous start at Arizona on July 21.

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Logo for 2018 MLB All Star Game in D.C. revealed

Logo for 2018 MLB All Star Game in D.C. revealed

The Washington Nationals will host the 2018 MLB All Star Game next July.

On Wednesday, the team officially released the logo for the event.

This will mark the fifth time the All-Star Game has been held in D.C., with the last one dating back to 1969 at RFK Stadium. 


The logo clearly incorporates the Washington Capitol surrounded by a patriotic red, white and blue theme. 

One of the biggest things to look forward to is Bryce Harper participating in the Home Run Derby.

Harper has avoided participating in the competition in recent years but has committed to playing when the event is in D.C.