The Atlanta Braves are fairly cruising toward a wild-card berth in the upcoming National League playoffs. They've also been off a few days dealing with the fallout of Hurricane Irene. So you can imagine if they came in to tonight's game with the Washington Nationals with somewhat of a lack of focus.
The Nats used the long-ball to bust this game open in the middle frames, scoring seven runs in innings five through seven, as they walked away with a 9-2 win over the Braves before just 16,674 at Turner Field in Atlanta.
The Nats, who struggled all last week to score runs of any kind, had a very nice night at the dish, homering four times off Braves starter Jair Jurrjens (L, 13-6, 2.96) and reliever Christhian Martinez. All told, the Nats pounded out 12 hits and went 4-for-9 with runners in scoring position, after leaving what seemed like the population of Rhode Island on base in their now-concluded six-game losing streak.
The middle of the order led the way, as Ryan Zimmerman (3-for-5, 3 RBIs), Michael Morse (3-for-5, 3 RBIs) and Laynce Nix (2-for-4, 2 RBIs) all homered, doing the bulk of the damage. Danny Espinosa added a solo home run, his 19th of the year, but just his third since the All-Star break.
On the other side of things, "Good Livo" was back. Veteran hurler Livan Hernandez went seven strong innings, holding the Braves potent attack to two earned runs on just five hits and three walks, striking out one. Livo even doubled and scored on Zimmerman's fifth inning home run, his 10th of the season. Tom Gorzelanny came on in relief and threw two hitless, scoreless innings, striking out two.
The win ups the Nats record to 63-70, and while the prospect of reaching the elusive .500 mark is dimming, the final 29 games almost certainly will see them eclipse 73 wins, the second best mark this team has achieved since moving to the District in 2005.
One more thing: with the New York Mets loss to the Florida Marlins last night, the Nats pull within one game of third place in the division. It might not mean much, but with Stephen Strasburg set to rejoin the rotation next week, and Tom Milone making his MLB debut Saturday, it's just another step in the right direction.
THE GOOD: Ryan Zimmerman. A breakout game from him, considering he was just four for his last 27 plate appearances with just one walk.
THE BAD: Rick Ankiel, hitting second, went 0-for-5, lowering his season average to .236.
THE UGLY: Jesus Flores. The backup catcher went 0-for-4, striking out three times.
THE STATS: 12 hits, two walks, 10 strikeouts. 4-for-9 w/RISP, four LOB, one GIDP. No errors.
NEXT GAME: Wednesday at 7:10 pm against the Braves. John Lannan (8-10, 3.59) faces Derek Lowe (8-12, 4.63).