The Washington Nationals put a hurting on Atlanta Braves pitcher Jair Jurrjens, a rare occurrence for any team in the National League this season, but Washington's own pitching problems ultimately spoiled a potential Nationals series victory as the Braves beat the Nats 9-8 on a ninth inning walk off single.
The Nationals had a commanding 6-2 lead in the fifth inning, but a combination of poor pitches from Henry Rodriguez and Sean Burnett led to the Braves scoring five runs in the inning to take a 7-6 lead. The Nationals would get two back in the sixth, but the Braves continued to fight and tied the game in the eighth which brought in reliever Ryan Mattheus who allowed Freddie Freeman to single to right, scoring Martin Prado and giving the Braves the game and the series victory.
Nationals starter Tom Gorzelanny left the game in the third inning after suffering a collision at the plate with Braves catcher Brian McCann. Gorzo finished the day with two innings pitched giving up two runs on one hit, walking three and striking out two to push his ERA over four to 4.07.
The devastating loss puts the Nationals at 47-48 on the season.
Sunday afternoon's game began ugly, with starter Tom Gorzelanny giving up two runs in the first inning on three walks, one hit and a wild pitch, but the Nationals rebounded nicely to take a 6-2 lead into the bottom of the fifth inning. Unfortunately, the Braves bats exploded against Nats relievers Henry Rodriguez and Sean Burnett, and Washington now trails 7-6 after a five run Atlanta fifth.
Nationals starter Gorzelanny only lasted two innings, as he injured himself scoring on a Roger Bernadina triple in the second. Gorzelanny left the game with what is being described as a sprained right ankle. Henry Rodriguez relieved Gorzelanny, and was effective in the third and fourth innings, before having the wheels come off in the fifth. Sean Burnett relieved Rodriguez, and much to the chagrin of Washington skipper Davey Johnson, gave up a three run home run to his first batter, Braves catcher Brian McCann.
The Nationals bats, led by leadoff hitter Roger Bernadina, roughed up Braves starter Jair Jurrjens, the National League's leader in wins and ERA entering the game. Jurrjens allowed six runs on eight hits in his five innings of work. It was his worst start of the year, trumping a June 14th loss to the New York Mets in which he allowed four earned runs in five innings pitched. The Braves young ace entered the day with a 1.87 ERA, but after being battered by the Washington lineup, he left with that figure registering at 2.26.
Bernandina is two for two on the day, with a triple, single, two runs scored and two stolen bases. The Nationals scored four runs in the fourth inning off of Jurrjens, with Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman and Danny Espinosa all driving in Nats runners.
The Washington Nationals will play one more game on Sunday afternoon at Turner Field against the Atlanta Braves and they hope to leave Atlanta with a series victory against their NL East rivals and put a damper on the Braves potential run to the playoffs.
Washington manager Davey Johnson will be handing the ball and the controls to starter Tom Gorzelanny (2-6, 3.94 ERA) who will have his hands full with a commanding Braves line-up that will be anchored by Jair Jurrjens (12-3, 1.87 ERA) who is the National League leader in wins and ERA. It will be a tough challenge for Washington, but their season has already been littered with shocks and surprises that are making teams think twice in feeling D.C. will just roll over for them.
Catcher Wilson Ramos, one of Friday night's offensive heroes will be sitting out for some rest as Jesus Flores takes control behind the plate and power slugging outfielder Laynce Nix returns to the line-up to give the Nationals a little more of a power threat.