The first game in a highly anticpated and nationally recognized series lived up to its billing, at least if you’ve watched the Washington Nationals play baseball this season. The game had a little bit of everything: exciting offense and lethargic offense, stellar pitching and questionable pitching, and an insanely boneheaded play that cost the Atlanta Braves the game in a 5-4 loss in 13 innings.
In the first, the Braves scored their first run on a Jason Heyward single, but starter Jordan Zimmermann was able to squeeze out of danger. The Nats answered with a huge bottom of the first. Bryce Harper drove in Jayson Werth after a double to lead off the home half of the game. Ryan Zimmerman got on, too, and Ian Desmond brought both of them home with a line drive home run to left-center field. It gave the Nats a 4-1 lead that wasn’t going to be safe in this type of series with a great Braves team.
After the big first inning, the Nats bats got relatively quiet for 11 innings. It’s not that they didn’t get runners on base, they ultimately stranded 10 runners, it’s that they couldn’t get them home. They stranded runners in scoring position in the third, sixth, seventh, and eighth innings, and the bases were loaded with just one out in the eighth with nothing to show for it. Tim Hudson can be credited with a nice start to keep his team in the game.
Jordan Zimmermann, on the other hand, didn’t have one of his best starts, giving up four runs on eight hits in just five innings. He wasn’t pitch efficient either at 102 pitches. In his post-game press conference, manager Davey Johnson said he thought Zimmermann may have been feeling the pressure saying of his starter, “he had that weight that this was a big game, this was a big game, instead of this was just another game.” For himself, Davey doesn’t put more into one game or series than another. “I have the same amount on the table for every game,” he said. “It’s not a big game, it’s not a little game. Every game has its own weight.”
Well, it looked like Dan Uggla may have felt that extra weight of this game in the bottom of the 13th inning. With Chad Tracy pinch hitting for Craig Stammen, he had a chance to end the game. Danny Espinosa went from first to third on some extremely heads-up base running after a Kurt Suzuki infield single. Tracy hit a hard grounder to Uggla, and then, Uggla looked perplexed about the right move. Did he think there were two outs? Did he expect Suzuki to keep running? Was he distracted by Espinosa heading home? Only he will know, but you can decide for yourself by watching one of the most bizarre walk offs you’ll see.
Ultimately, the Nats got the win to move 30 games above the .500 mark at 76-46 and extended their lead over the Braves to six games. So now, best case scenario is the Nats sweep the next to games and move to an eight-game lead, and worst case scenario is losing the next two but still retaining a four-game lead in the division. So Monday’s four hour and 27 minute game that spanned two days on the calendar was just another day in NatsTown.
Actually not that boneheaded - it looked to me as if Uggla wanted to tag Suzuki and then complete the double play by forcing Tracy at first. In that case the run doesn't score. But Suzuki foiled that by freezing just off first. So now Uggla can only go home, but he bobbled the ball. Game over. By the way, had he forced Tracy at first and THEN tagged Suzuki, the run counts.