The Washington Nationals burst out to a promising start to their huge four-game series with the Braves on Friday night. The Nats' offense hammered Atlanta starter Tommy Hanson for eight runs in just four innings of work. With a doubleheader on the docket for Saturday, chasing Hanson early on could be a crucial turning point right at the start of the series.
Most of the damage came via the longball with Michael Morse and Ryan Zimmerman each launching three-run homers. Morse slammed his in the bottom of the first, taking a Hanson offering over the right field wall with Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche on base. Zimmerman then blew things open with a pulled shot to left in the bottom of the fourth to make it 6-0. With a full count, Hanson continued to try to erase the Nats third baseman with a curve ball before finally trying to pound him inside with a fastball. But Zimmerman brought his hands in and managed to get a hold of it and send it into the bleachers.
The Nats would add three more just one inning later to chase Hanson and make it 9-0. Michael Morse and Ian Desmond led off the inning with back-to-back singles, forcing Atlanta to make the call to the bullpen for Luis Avilan. The Braves' reliever loaded things up with a walk to Jesus Flores and then compounded the ugliness with a bases-loaded walk to Stephen Strasburg. Stephen Lombardozzi then added to the rout by stepping into the box and promptly singling to right to push the lead to nine. Hanson was credited with eight of the nine runs.
The NL East's second place team would not go quietly, however, responding with four runs in the next half inning to at least make things interesting. The rally forced Davey Johnson to pull Stephen Strasburg with one out in the sixth. Brian McCann smacked a two-run homer to right to end the shutout and the Braves bats continued against Strasburg. An Eric Hinskie double high off the centerfield wall knocked him out of the game and brought on Mike Gonzalez. Martin Prado doubled home two more to make it 9-4, with the Nationals' starter on the hook for the final two runs as well. He gave up eight hits and three walks in just 5.1 innings. With the rain coming down at Nationals Park, it was a no-brainer to get him out of the game.