Forecast bumps Saturday doubleheader up to Friday

Nationals Park tarp

The Nationals have altered this weekend’s schedule against the Phillies, moving Saturday’s doubleheader up to Friday in an attempt to avoid the worst of the rain that is expected from the remnants of Hurricane Ian.

Saturday’s originally scheduled 7:05 p.m. nightcap will now be played Friday at 1:05 p.m. as the opener of a newly created day-night doubleheader at Nationals Park. Fans who hold tickets to the Saturday night game may now use them for Friday’s 1:05 p.m. game.

The originally scheduled Friday 7:05 p.m. will proceed as planned, as will the originally scheduled Saturday 1:05 p.m. game and Sunday 1:35 p.m. game, though more changes are possible pending changes in the forecast.

The first round of rain is currently forecast to arrive sometime Friday evening, with on and off rain expected throughout the weekend.

Major League Baseball’s original 2022 schedule had this as a three-game series to end the regular season. But when the league’s lockout of players forced the postponement of the season’s first week, it added another game to the Nationals-Phillies series to make up for one of two lost April games. The original opening series between the Nats and Mets in New York was then added to the end of the season, and those teams will now play Monday through Wednesday at Citi Field.

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Abrams atones for hustle mistake with first career walk-off hit

CJ Abrams swing blue home

It was a routine chopper back to the pitcher, the kind of play that’s made 99.5 percent of the time. Knowing that, CJ Abrams slowed down as he approached first base, assuming he would easily be thrown out.

Except when A.J. Minter’s throw sailed high, and Braves first baseman Matt Olson had to dive back to tag the base with his glove, Abrams lack of hustle cost him and the Nationals. Had he run hard all the way through the bag, he would’ve been safe at a critical moment in the eighth inning of what was a tie game. Instead, he had to make the walk of shame back to the dugout, where a perturbed Davey Martinez was waiting.

“That can’t happen,” Abrams said afterward. “I talked to Davey about it. Won’t happen again, for sure.”

It was a potentially low moment for the rookie shortstop, but two innings later he made sure it wouldn’t be his most memorable play from Wednesday night’s game. With a two-out RBI single to right in the bottom of the 10th, Abrams delivered the first walk-off hit of his career, sending the Nationals to a 3-2 victory and leaving the 21-year-old to be mobbed by teammates.

“It was good for him, especially after the baserunning thing,” Martinez said. “He comes back, he puts it aside and he gets after that at-bat and gets a big base hit for us. It’s good to see that. He stayed in the game, stayed poised.”

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Abrams' 10th-inning single gives Nats a walk-off win (updated)

CJ Abrams walkoff celebration

The Nationals have any number of reasons to want to finish this 100-plus-loss season on positive notes, both on a team level and an individual level.

On a team level, the 3-2 10-inning win they pulled off tonight over the Braves thanks to CJ Abrams’ walk-off single most definitely qualifies as a positive note.

On an individual level, the six standout innings Josiah Gray pitched tonight most definitely does as well.

With his best start in more than a month, Gray nearly shut down the Braves’ potent lineup altogether, allowing Matt Olson’s solo homer in the second but hardly anything else during an 85-pitch gem during what might wind up being his final start of an up-and-down year.

That decision is still to come from Davey Martinez, who has repeatedly mentioned a desire to limit the 24-year-old’s innings and potentially shut him down early, but to date has continued to let him take the mound up to the season’s final week.

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Nats waiting to hear about potential weekend schedule changes

martinez w ipad dugout

The Nationals have their final scheduled off-day of the season Thursday. After which they’re hoping to play their final seven games in six days as planned.

The problem: Nobody knows at this point if it will possible to play all seven of those games in time due to a dismal weather forecast.

As Hurricane Ian made landfall today on Florida’s Gulf Coast, attention understandably has been on those communities now dealing with dangerous wind and flooding. But the remnants of the Category 4 storm could wreak havoc with the entire East Coast in the coming days, and that would have a direct impact on multiple series that need to be played to determine the National League pennant race.

The Nationals are scheduled to host the Phillies for four games in three days, with a Saturday doubleheader in the middle, while the Mets face the Braves in Atlanta for three games. Then the Nats head to New York to finish the season with three games at Citi Field, where weather still could be an issue Monday.

For now, Friday looks like the best day of the weekend here in Washington, with Saturday the worst and Sunday potentially somewhat better. Given that, the Nationals and Phillies are waiting to hear from Major League Baseball about the possibility of the Saturday doubleheader being moved to Friday, in the hopes they could at least get two games played before the worst of the storm arrives.

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Game 155 lineups: Nats vs. Braves

josiah gray pitches white

It hasn’t been a pleasant experience for the Nationals to face the Braves this season. (Not that it’s been much more pleasant to face anybody else in the NL East this season.) Tonight, they get one final shot at beating the defending World Series champions and perhaps dealing them a blow in their attempt to surpass the Mets to win the division this year.

It’s Josiah Gray back on the mound for what again could be his final start of 2022, though there still remains a need for somebody to pitch next week’s final series in New York, so don’t just assume this is the end of the road. Regardless, the 24-year-old right-hander would love to wrap things up on a positive note, because it’s been a difficult September for him (18 earned runs, 25 hits, 11 walks, five homers in 19 1/3 innings).

Gray has actually faced the Braves only once this season, way back on April 13 at Truist Park. He tossed five scoreless innings, allowing only one hit. A lot, of course, has changed since then.

Jake Odorizzi starts for Atlanta. The Nats saw him this spring when he was with the Astros, but this is the first time they’ve faced him since he was acquired by the Braves. Davey Martinez goes with a lineup that again includes CJ Abrams as No. 2 hitter, with Luis García returning to play second base after sitting out Tuesday’s game and Riley Adams back behind the plate.

Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM,
Weather: Partly cloudy, 66 degrees, wins 9 mph left field to right field

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Unusually poor defense costs Nats in loss to Braves


The first question posed to Davey Martinez following Tuesday night’s 8-2 loss to the Braves was about Paolo Espino, who once again cruised through an opposing lineup for three innings before collapsing once he had to face that lineup a second time.

The Nationals manager immediately pivoted to what he believed was the biggest reason for this loss: His team’s poor play in the field.

“I mean, we gave them six extra outs,” Martinez said. “We played two extra innings on defense.”

To be sure, this was the Nats’ worst defensive game in a while. There was only one official error (on a poor throw by shortstop CJ Abrams) but there were several more substandard moments in the field, from a couple of casual (and thus, late) throws by second baseman Cesar Hernandez and third baseman Ildemaro Vargas, plus a misplayed grounder by Espino that helped keep the top of the fourth alive and ultimately set the stage for Atlanta to score two runs.

It was tough to watch at times, but it was a reminder just how much better the Nationals have been in the field for weeks now.

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Second time through lineup does in Espino again in loss (updated)


The Nationals have legitimately been getting quality work from a deep stable of relievers for months now, helping keep far more games close than was the case during the season’s first half. And that includes several relievers capable of going multiple innings and posting multiple zeros.

If only they didn’t have to keep asking a couple of those relievers to start games and extend themselves beyond the point where they remain effective.

A lack of reliable (or healthy) starters has left the Nats in this position, needing to keep giving starts to the likes of Paolo Espino and Cory Abbott, who might be good for two or three innings but haven’t been able to sustain that success beyond that point.

It happened again tonight to Espino during an 8-2 loss to the Braves. After retiring the first 10 batters he faced, the right-hander retired only six of the last 11 he faced before, in the process failing to earn his long-coveted first win of the season.

Espino and those who followed him out of the bullpen weren’t helped a ton by their infield defense, which played its sloppiest game in a while.

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Despite stamina issues, Gore wants to make start for Nats

gore padres

MacKenzie Gore was back in the clubhouse at Nationals Park this afternoon, back from his fourth rehab start with Triple-A Rochester, fully acknowledging the outcome from his most recent start (six runs, six hits, three homers allowed in 3 2/3 innings) didn’t look great on paper.

“It’s tough. You look at the line last night, it looks like a bad outing,” the left-hander said. “But it’s really just the fourth that was bad.”

Indeed, a closer examination of Gore’s start against Worcester confirms all his troubles came in his final inning of work. When he walked off the mound at the end of the third, he had allowed only one of the 10 batters he had faced to that point to reach (a leadoff homer in the second). He had three strikeouts. He threw 27 of 39 pitches for strikes.

The fourth inning, though, was a mess for Gore. He issued his lone walk of the night. He gave up five extra-base hits, two of them homers. He threw only 18 of 33 pitches for strikes. And he was pulled before completing the inning, his total pitch count up to 72.

“I feel fine. I just haven’t built up as quickly as I thought I would,” he said. “The first three innings were good. The fourth, I just kind of ran out of gas.”

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Game 154 lineups: Nats vs. Braves


The disparity between the Nationals and Braves has been on display all year long when these two teams face each other. The Nats are 4-13 against Atlanta in 2022, and while there are multiple reasons for that, it’s hard to ignore this fact: They’ve been out-homered by the staggering total of 38 to 14. That disparity only increased Monday night, when the Braves hit three more home runs during an 8-0 shutout victory in which both teams finished with six hits.

This is all to make the point that the Nationals might want to try to break out the power bats tonight against Kyle Muller, called up by the Braves from Triple-A Gwinnett to start this game. The Nats faced the lefty once last season, scoring three runs in 4 2/3 innings off him. He’s made only two big league starts this season, producing a 10.57 ERA.

If the Nationals can score some runs, perhaps Paolo Espino can deliver five solid innings, keep Atlanta in the ballpark and put himself in position to finally earn his first win of the year. This is Espino’s fourth start (fifth overall appearance) against the Braves this season, and he’s allowed 11 runs (nine earned) on 20 hits in 16 1/3 innings.

Nationals Park

Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM,
Weather: Partly cloudy, 67 degrees, wins 9 mph left field to right field

RF Lane Thomas
SS CJ Abrams
1B Joey Meneses
DH Luke Voit
LF Alex Call
2B César Hernández
3B Ildemaro Vargas
CF Victor Robles
C Tres Barrera

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Abrams shakes off strange out, continues strong September


MIAMI – As he walked from the plate to the home dugout in the top of the second inning Sunday afternoon at loanDepot Park, CJ Abrams had no idea who was approaching him from behind. As far as he knew, he had just scored on Victor Robles’ safety squeeze, extending the Nationals’ lead to 3-0.

And then just as he was about to go down the steps and into the dugout, Marlins catcher Nick Fortes suddenly tagged him from behind. Abrams turned around to look, saw umpire Bill Miller signal out and realized what had just happened.

“They said I didn’t touch the plate,” he said. “But on the replay, you could see it kind of … my cleat kind of bounced up off the plate. But it is what it is. Kept playing, won the game. It’s cool.” 

That last sentence perfectly summed things up. Abrams could’ve let the bizarre (and possibly incorrect) play rattle him. Instead, he shrugged it off, kept playing and wound up playing an important role in the Nationals’ 6-1 victory over Miami.

“He’s really done a great job with that,” manager Davey Martinez said. “He doesn’t sulk over it. He comes back, he watches video and then he shrugs it off, knowing that there’s going to be some more plays that he’s got to make. I love that about him.”

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Sánchez's surprise surge continues in Nats win over Marlins (updated)

Sanchez gray

MIAMI – The notion of Aníbal Sánchez wrapping up the season as the Nationals’ most consistently effective starter would’ve sounded ludicrous two months ago, when the notion of Sánchez still being a member of the Nats rotation seemed far-fetched.

Funny how things play out, though, because as the 2022 campaign winds down there’s really no disputing the fact that the Nationals’ best starter has been a 38-year-old right-hander who sat out the entire 2021 season and then missed 3 1/2 months this season with a neck injury.

Sánchez added another impressive chapter to his out-of-nowhere resurgence this afternoon, tossing five scoreless innings and allowing only two hits to the Marlins during a feel-good, 6-1 victory over the franchise for whom he made his major league debut 16 long years ago.

Thanks to the efforts of Sánchez, four relievers, another Joey Meneses home run and three hits from CJ Abrams, the Nationals left town with one win to salvage the weekend. They end their season series against the Marlins with an abysmal 4-15 record, but today’s win at least ensured they didn’t drop a 16th game to one opponent for the first time in club history.

They also avoided reaching the 100-loss mark for the first time since 2009, though it will take a perfect 10-0 finish now against the Braves, Phillies and Mets to prevent that inevitable event from occurring.

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Nats will give Gray at least one more start

Josiah gray

MIAMI – Despite plenty of consideration over the last few weeks, the Nationals will not shut Josiah Gray down yet, giving the right-hander at least one more start this season.

Gray will pitch Wednesday against the Braves in D.C., the club decided today.

That decision was made both with consideration about the state of Gray’s arm at the end of his first full big league season, as well as the uncertain status of Patrick Corbin, who had to depart his last start in Atlanta after tweaking his back and will miss at least one turn through the rotation as a result.

“One, he’s still strong. He’s still throwing the ball well,” manager Davey Martinez said of Gray. “And two, we don’t know what’s going to happen with Corbin yet. But I like the way he threw the ball (Friday). The big thing is, he threw a lot more changeups; we want to continue to see him develop his changeup. So we’re going to give him another start and go from there.”

Gray had some encouraging moments during Friday night’s loss to the Marlins, in which he went six innings and began to rely more on his emerging sinker and changeup in addition to his slider and curveball, while throwing fewer four-seam fastballs. A potential quality start, though, fell apart during a three-run bottom of the sixth that left the 24-year-old upset at himself afterward.

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Game 152 lineups: Nats at Marlins

Sanchez red

MIAMI – Though it’s been inevitable for a while now, the Nationals’ march to 100 losses nevertheless isn’t something anyone wanted to be a part of. Alas, the time has arrived to reach that unceremonious milestone, perhaps as soon as today if they can’t salvage one win this weekend against a Marlins team that has absolutely dominated them all season.

If they’re going to delay the inevitable for at least one more day, the Nats simply are going to need to score more runs than they have against this Miami pitching staff. How bad has it been? In 18 head-to-head games, they’ve scored an average of 2.55 runs, posting a .205/.279/.312 slash line. Is it any wonder they’ve gone 3-15 in those games?

Today’s Marlins starter looking to continue the trend is Edward Cabrera, who of course dominated the Nationals in his one previous outing against them this year: one run, two hits in six innings during a 12-2 win here on June 7.

Aníbal Sánchez starts for the Nats, and while that thought may have sent shivers down everyone’s spines earlier this summer, remarkably the veteran right-hander has become their most consistently effective starter down the stretch. Over his last six starts, Sánchez is 2-1 with a 1.53 ERA, having allowed a grand total of five runs on 14 hits over 29 1/3 innings. How about that?

loanDepot Park
Gametime: 1:40 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM,
Weather: Indoors

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Alcantara dominates Nats one last time in 2022 (updated)


MIAMI – If they had the ability to vote for this year’s National League Cy Young Award winner – and they most certainly do not – the Nationals would unanimously select Sandy Alcantara. With all due respect to anybody else they’ve faced this year, how could they go with anyone other than the Marlins ace, who has dominated everyone around the league but has saved some of this best performances for them.

And you can add tonight’s gem to the list. With power and efficiency, Alcantara toppled the Nationals, 4-1, and nearly tossed his second complete game against them this week.

The lanky right-hander struck out 11 and saw his pitch count climb a bit (99) compared to his 103-pitch complete game Sunday at Nationals Park. That prompted manager Don Mattingly to lift him after he struck out the side in the eighth and turn to closer Dylan Floro to finish it off.

That didn’t diminish Alcantara’s performance tonight, in which he allowed only five batters to reach base, with Alex Call reaching three times on his own and everybody else combining to reach twice. Call somehow managed to reach base in six of his seven plate appearances against Alcantara this week, cracking a code nobody else in the Nats lineup could figure out.

There’s no shame, of course, in getting beat by Alcantara, now 14-8 with a 2.32 ERA for the season. But he’s been remarkably dominant against the Nationals, who in five starts went 4-0 with an 0.90 ERA, averaging eight innings per outing.

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Corbin to miss next start, final outing still uncertain

Patrick Corbin throwing gray back

MIAMI – Patrick Corbin won’t make his next scheduled start while he waits for his back to heal, and the Nationals haven’t decided yet if he’ll return to make one final start before the season ends.

Corbin, who had to depart Tuesday night’s start in Atlanta in the first inning after tweaking his back, has been able to play catch on flat ground since then. But he has not yet thrown off a mound, and until he’s able to do that the club won’t have him start a game.

“At this point, because he’s not going to be able to throw a bullpen, we might skip him,” manager Davey Martinez said. “We’re undecided who’s going to pitch in his spot, but when we get back home we’ll have (Cory) Abbott, (Paolo) Espino and TBD.”

The Nationals have five other healthy starters, so they can proceed without Corbin if they need. Josiah Gray could pitch on normal rest Wednesday against the Braves, though Martinez admitted after Friday night’s start the right-hander could still be shut down due to his career-high workload this season.

The real issue comes Saturday, when the Nats are scheduled to face the Phillies in a day-night doubleheader. MacKenzie Gore, who is slated to make his fourth rehab start for Triple-A Rochester on Monday, could come off the injured list to start one of those games. If not, the team would need to find someone else (or go with Corbin).

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Game 151 lineups: Nats at Marlins

Erick Fedde throws gray

MIAMI – It was only six days ago the Nationals faced Sandy Alcantara. The Marlins ace went the distance that afternoon at Nationals Park, tossing a complete game on only 103 pitches. The good news: The Nats managed seven hits off the right-hander. The bad news: They scored only one run. And because they were so aggressive, often putting the first or second pitch of an at-bat in play, they allowed him to keep his pitch count so low, he was able to cruise through nine innings.

So, what’s the strategy tonight at loanDepot Park? Continue to be aggressive and hope more of those hits produce runs? Or try to make Alcantara work and perhaps get him out of the game sooner and force the Marlins to go to their bullpen? There’s no right answer, of course. The Nats just have to hope they can find a way to beat the Cy Young Award favorite and avoid their 99th loss of the season.

Erick Fedde makes his 25th start of the year for the Nationals, his fourth against the Marlins. Historically, the right-hander has been successful against them, but he labored last weekend in D.C., allowing three runs on seven hits while throwing 87 pitches in only four innings before getting hooked. Fedde has got to find a way to be more efficient tonight to give his team a chance against Alcantara and Co.

loanDepot Park
Gametime: 6:10 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM,
Weather: Indoors

RF Lane Thomas
2B Luis García
1B Joey Meneses
DH Luke Voit
LF Alex Call
SS CJ Abrams
3B Ildemaro Vargas
CF Victor Robles
C Riley Adams 

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Rotation puzzle for final 12 games looks complicated


MIAMI – There are 12 games remaining on the Nationals’ schedule, 12 games that need to be played in 12 days (with one off-day still on tap but a day-night doubleheader also on the slate). Which means Davey Martinez and Jim Hickey have 12 more starting pitchers to name, which is becoming a more daunting challenge than either man anticipated.

In a perfect world, the Nationals would’ve had more starters than dates that needed to be filled. They would have Cade Cavalli and MacKenzie Gore ready to finish strong and perhaps allow Josiah Gray to shut down early. They would have the ability to prevent Patrick Corbin from making a run at 20 losses. They would have kids they could summon from their farm system to take over at the end for veterans who just don’t need the work at this point.

But this is not a perfect world, and so Martinez and Hickey may be forced to do some things with their rotation they’d rather not.

Consider Gray, for example. The Nationals have been talking for months about their preference not to let the 24-year-old’s workload get too heavy in his first full professional season. The intention was always going to be to shut him down at some point in late September.

But following Friday night’s 5-2 loss to the Marlins – in which Gray looked really sharp for five innings before faltering in the sixth – Martinez admitted this decision has gotten tougher in the wake of Corbin’s recent back injury. (The left-hander, who was removed from his last start after only 12 pitches, played catch Friday and reported improvement, but there’s still no guarantee he returns to pitch before season’s end.)

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Strong start turns sour for Gray, Nats lose 98th game (updated)

Josiah Gray throwing gray

MIAMI – As he’s done throughout his first full big league season, Josiah Gray did some things tonight that could only leave the Nationals encouraged about his prospects for long-term success.

Gray didn’t surrender a home run for the first time since June 18. And he didn’t walk a batter through his first five innings of work against the Marlins, keeping his pitch count much lower than he has throughout most of the summer.

But just as he’s done throughout his first full big league season, Gray also did just enough to turn what could’ve been a strong start into something much less satisfying. With a ragged, three-run bottom of the sixth, the Nats right-hander lost his shot at a quality start and left his team in a position to eventually lose 5-2.

Gray’s 10th loss of the season sent the Nationals to their 98th loss of the season. With presumptive Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcantara set to start for Miami on Saturday, they very well may take the field Sunday afternoon trying to avoid reaching the 100-loss mark for the first time in 13 years.

A lack of offense beyond Lane Thomas’ leadoff homer in the first and Joey Meneses’ RBI double in the eighth didn’t help matters. But in the end, Gray proved to be the story of the night, for both encouraging and discouraging reasons.

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Gore to make another rehab start, Corbin resumes throwing


MIAMI – MacKenzie Gore will make another rehab start for Triple-A Rochester, leaving the left-hander with enough time to make only major league start for the Nationals before season’s end.

Gore, who threw 67 pitches over four innings of one-run ball Wednesday in his third rehab start, will return to Rochester and attempt to build up to five innings Monday against Worcester.

“We talked to him before he left about trying to throw strike one every (at-bat) and work from there. And as the game went along, they said he started doing a lot more of that,” manager Davey Martinez said. “That’s encouraging. For me, it’s just about honing in on his mechanics, throwing more strikes. And once he does that, I think the five innings and 75 pitches will come.”

Already on the 15-day injured list with left elbow inflammation when the Nationals acquired him as part of the haul of prospects the Padres sent them for Juan Soto and Josh Bell, Gore has slowly built his arm back up over the last six weeks.

The plan all along has included the possibility of one or two major league starts before season’s end. At this point, there wouldn’t be enough time for him to make more than one.

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Game 150 lineups: Nats at Marlins

Josiah Gray throw gray back

MIAMI – Fresh off what I’m sure was a relaxing day off here in Miami, the Nationals open a three-game weekend series with the Marlins, their last chance to face a team that isn’t in the pennant race before the season ends.

The Nats took two of three from Miami last weekend in D.C. in one of their better performances during an improved September stretch. Their only loss came to Sandy Alcantara, and unfortunately they’ll have to face the presumptive National League Cy Young Award winner again Saturday. So that perhaps puts some added pressure to win tonight’s opener.

That means Josiah Gray needs to put together a solid outing, something he hasn’t done in a while. In three September starts so far, the right-hander has a 9.45 ERA, with 10 walks and five home runs allowed over only 13 1/3 innings. He hasn’t earned a win in any of his last 15 starts.

You would hope the spacious outfield here at loanDepot Park would help Gray keep the ball in the yard. So the key to success, then, may well be his ability to limit the walks that have so often plagued him this year.

The Nationals go up against Braxton Garrett, the rookie left-hander who enters with a 3.68 ERA in 14 big league starts. He faced them once before, on July 4 in D.C., where he allowed only one run on four hits over 7 1/3 impressive innings.

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