Welcome to MASN’s discussion space for tonight’s Nationals-Braves game at Turner Field. The hybrid format has been working for us lately, so we’re going to do that again; I’ll post updates and analysis throughout the game, for those of you who prefer that format, and we’ll add a live chat in this space starting around 7:45 p.m. The rest of the game, you can weigh in by leaving your thoughts in the comments section.
7:20 p.m.: The Nationals’ first inning, given a couple chances to get something going by Tim Hudson and the Braves’ defense, couldn’t do anything. Nyjer Morgan reached first base on an error by shortstop Yunel Escobar, but again got picked off first base. And following an Ivan Rodriguez walk, Ryan Zimmerman grounded into a double play. Manager Jim Riggleman came out to argue the pickoff call on Morgan, who looked on replays to be safe on a close play.
7:29 p.m.: The Braves got a couple hits off Stephen Strasburg in the first inning, but Josh Willingham saved a run at the end of the first, throwing out Melky Cabrera at home plate on a strike from left field. Strasburg threw nine pitches in the first inning, six of them strikes against a Braves team that looks like it will come out swinging early in counts.
7:48 p.m.: I’ve launched the live chat below. I’ll keep posting game updates here, and if you want to chat, you can do so in that window. Otherwise, you can comment on the game via the normal methods. Your call. We’re all about options here.
8:00 p.m.: Strasburg continues to get groundouts, moreso than strikeouts, here tonight. He’s working quickly, inducing weak contact with his breaking ball and changeup. We’re still scoreless after two innings.
8:06 p.m.: Just 10 pitches for Strasburg in the third inning, inducing three quick groundouts. He’s thrown 35 pitches through three innings, and has just one strikeout. But the Nationals will take it if it means he can go seven innings.
8:25 p.m.: Strasburg only threw 35 pitches through three innings, and cruises through another quick inning against the Braves, fanning Brian McCann on three straight changeups (after McCann flailed at one in his first at-bat) and getting a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning on Troy Glaus. He had an 11-pitch inning, and is at 46 pitches through four innings. Tim Hudson has thrown 72, so if the Nationals can grind out a long inning, they might be able to win the war of attrition between the pitchers.
8:42 p.m.: This is turning into quite the pitchers’ duel. Strasburg has struck out four of the last five batters he’s faced, and the Nationals have just three hits off Tim Hudson. Strasburg is starting to crank up his fastball the second time through the lineup after using more off-speed pitches the first time through, and because of all the quick outs he’s had, he’s got the pitches to spare. He’s thrown just 61 pitches through five innings.
9:04 p.m.: Strasburg is cruising now. He struck out two in the sixth, freezing Martin Prado on a 98-mph fastball on the outer half of the plate, and got a quick groundout. He’s struck out seven, thrown 73 pitches and has a shutout working. And the Nationals have the go-ahead run at third with one out in the seventh in a scoreless game. Doesn’t get much better than this.
9:11 p.m.: The Nationals squandered a chance in the top of the seventh, stranding Roger Bernadina on third after he started the inning with a double. Alberto Gonzalez went fishing at an outside curveball for the second out, and Riggleman, after showing pinch hitter Adam Kennedy in one of his typical fakes, let Strasburg hit. He couldn’t beat out a chopper to short, and we’re still scoreless.
9:32 p.m.: This game has gone off the rails for the Nationals. Ian Desmond’s error prevented a double play early in the seventh, Nyjer Morgan missed a cutoff man, Sean Burnett bobbled a bunt and Ryan Zimmerman couldn’t handle a ground ball that allowed the Braves to score a pair of runs as the ball got away. It’s 4-0 Braves, with all of those runs being charged to Strasburg. We’ll see how many are earned. Few of them were Strasburg’s fault. The Nationals continue to implode defensively, and it’s why their season is headed for irrelevance.