Wednesday, July 27, 2005

MLB: Atlanta Braves 3, Nationals 2 (10 innings, July 26)

WP: Chris Reitsma (3-2)
LP: Mike Stanton (0-1)

WAS: 55-45 (2nd in NL East, 1 behind Atlanta)

A one-run game that was a pitchers duel which needed extra innings to be decided.

That was what everyone expected and was hoping for going into this monumental three game series between the two teams that, before last night's game, were tied for first place in the National League East. Unfortunately for Washington, the game did not go the way they had hoped.

Washington led 2-0 through six innings, but the Braves scored one in the seventh and another in the ninth to tie it up and send it to extras. In the bottom of the tenth inning, Mike Stanton loaded the bases, and manager Frank Robinson brought in Luis Ayala with two outs to try and extend the game. But Ayala fell behind 3-0 to Andruw Jones, and Jones took a pitch that appeared to be on the outside corner but was called ball four and scored the winning run in a literal walk-off.

Washington is now out of first place for the first time since June 5.

The Nats took the lead on RBI singles from Brad Wilkerson and Jose Guillen in the third and fifth innings, respectively, but the Braves came back thanks to Adam LaRoche, who wields the power of one of the fiercest uni-brows in all of sports.

In the seventh, LaRoche homered off of Livan Hernandez to make it 2-1, and in the ninth he hit a sacrifice fly off of Chad Cordero to tie the game and send it to extra frames.

Hernandez pitched eight fantastic innings, giving up five hits, walking one, and giving up the lone run on the LaRoche homer. He also struck out five. He out-dueled John Smoltz, who also pitched eight innings, giving up two runs on eight hits and two walks, while striking out four.

Cordero, the Nationals closer, couldn't make Hernandez' efforts stand up, though, as he blew just his fourth save in 38 tries.

The Nationals now must regroup and at least salvage a win in the remaining two games of this series, because a Braves sweep would put the Nats three games back in the NL East.

Tonight at 7:05 in Atlanta, the Nationals will send Esteban Loaiza (6-6, 3.56 ERA, throws right) to the hill against Tim Hudson (7-5, 3.59 ERA, throws right).

Hudson has been off-and-on at different stretches this year, and he has given up only three earned runs total in his last two starts (12 innings pitched). However, in the two starts before that he gave up nine earned runs in 6.2 innings total.

Loaiza has been fairly consistent, only giving up more than three earned runs four times in 20 starts so far this season, so this could be setting up for another pitchers duel.

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