GAME 155 REVIEW: Nats Dealt Lowe Blow

Posted by Dave Nichols | Saturday, September 25, 2010 | , , , | 0 comments »

THE RESULT:  Derek Lowe and his relievers were good.  Yunesky Maya ran out of gas.  That's about it.

Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox became the fourth manager in Major League history to reach 2,500 wins, as his squad shut out the Washington Nationals 5-0, before 23,824 sun-drenched fans at Nationals Park.

Braves Manager Bobby Cox recorded his 2,500th win in his illustrious career. (Photo by Ian Koski/Nats Daily News)
For five innings, this was a nail-biter, with the Braves holding a 1-0 lead, courtesy of some shaky infield defense by the Nats.  But Nats starter Maya ran out of gas in the sixth, giving up four runs, including shortstop Alex Gonzalez' three-run home run, his 23rd of the season.  It would be Maya's last pitch, his 92nd of the day in the heat and extreme sun.

Maya pitched very well the first five innings, including registering two 1-2-3 innings.  He seemed in control and poised to record his first quality start in the big leagues.

Yunesky Maya ran out of gas in the sixth inning, running his record to 0-3. (Photo by Ian Koski/Nats Daily News)
But in the sixth, things fell apart.  He walked leadoff hitter Martin Prado and uncorked a wild pitch, and Derrek Lee's double brought home Prado.  Nate McLouth scratched out an infield single, then Gonzalez took the first pitch he saw to the left field bleachers.

The sun contributed to the Braves first run of the game in a big way.  After Derek Lowe lofted a double to left over the playing-in Roger Berndina, Jason Heyward skied a pop-up to the left side of the infield.  Shortstop Ian Desmond lost the ball in the high sky and all hands were safe.  Two batters later -- with two outs -- Brian McCann hit a grounder to the left side against a pronounced shift.

Nats shortstop Ian Desmond lost an infield pop-up in the sun, leading to a Braves run. (Photo by Ian Koski/Nats Daily News)

Alberto Gonzalez made the pick-up falling to his knees, but in the exaggerated shift, Desmond could not get to second base quickly enough to make the force on Heyward.  Gonzalez tried to get the slow-footed McCann at first, throwing from his knees, but the strong-armed Gonzalez made a bad throw and the ball got past first baseman Adam Dunn, allowing Lowe to score.

Heyward tried to follow Lowe to home plate, but Maya backed the play up well, and threw in plenty of time to nab him at the plate.

Wilson Ramos holds onto the ball despite Jason Heyward's attempt to barrel over the catcher. (Photo by Ian Koski/Nats Daily News)
Maya fell to 0-3 with a 6.43 ERA, with 10 walks and eight strikeouts in four starts.  The four-run sixth continues a trend of opposing teams having one good inning against the Cuban-born right-hander. 

Lowe, the veteran righty, went five innings on the hot day, giving up five hits and one walk, striking out four.  The Nats managed just one hit in four innings against four Braves relievers.

It would have helped Maya, perhaps, if his team's hitters would have shown up for this one.  Washington actually got some runners on base, but as was the case when the team went through it offensive struggles in August and early September, the bats were non-existent with runners on base, going 0-for-10 in such situations.

THE GOOD:  Alberto Gonzalez went 2-for-4.  Craig Stammen, Joe Bisenius and Collin Balester combined for 3 2/3 scoreless relief innings with seven strikeouts.

THE BAD:  Nyjer Morgan, making his return from his eight-game suspension, was inserted right back into the leadoff spot, and promptly went 1-for-5, including going 0-for-2 against left-handed relievers.

THE UGLY:  The Nos. three through six hitters combined to go 0-for-13. Yuck.

THE STATS:  9 Ks, 5 BBs, 0-for-10 with RISP, 12 LOB, 1 GIDP, 1 E (Gonzalez, throw)

NEXT GAME:  Sunday matinee at 1:35 pm.  Livan Hernandez (10-12, 3.75) hosts Brandon Beachy (0-1, 2.08).

NATS NOTES:  The Nationals will make some sort of tribute to retiring Braves manager Bobby Cox in a pre-game ceremony at 1:15 pm Sunday.

Ryan Zimmerman missed his third straight game with a rib cage strain, and before the game Manager Jim Riggleman indicated that it's a possibility that Zimmerman could miss the remainder of the season.