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Posted at 12:32 PM ET, 03/ 4/2011

Live blog: Braves at Nationals, Space Coast Stadium

By Dave Sheinin

End 9, 3:50: That's a 6-4 loss for the Nationals. They mounted a rally in the ninth, with Danny Espinosa driving in the run with a lined single to right off lefty Jose Ortegano. But the game ended with Jerry Hairston grounding into a force-out at second.

Mid 9, 3:31: Drew Storen just un-tied the game, giving up an RBI single to right by Braves second baseman Tyler Pastornicky, followed by a triple to right by Diory Hernandez and a sacrifice fly by Matt Young. It's now 6-3, Braves. It was also a tough half-inning in right field for young Bryce Harper. First, he threw wildly past home plate on Pastornicky's single, getting charged with an error. Then, against a tough wind, he misplayed Hernandez's fly ball to right, first coming in on the ball, then trying in futility to catch up to it at the wall, where it bounced past him for a triple.

End 8, 3:21: Bryce Harper just went down on strikes against Braves lefty Brett Oberholtzer, missing badly on the pitcher's off-speed stuff. The Nationals failed to score in the eighth, and we're still tied at 3 apiece entering the ninth. Drew Storen is on to pitch for the Nationals.

Mid 8, 3:13: Tyler Clippard issued a pair of walks in the eighth, but managed to keep the Braves off the board, so we're still tied at 3 apiece. And Bryce Harper is due up fourth in the bottom half of the inning.

Mid 7, 2:54: The inning was a bit of a defensive adventure for the Nationals. In right field, Bryce Harper had to make a lunging stab to catch a fly ball after being fooled by a stiff wind blowing out to right. Then, catcher Jesus Flores threw wildly past first on a bunt by Jordan Schafer (the play was ruled a single, as Schafer would have beaten it anyway, and he did not advance on the bad throw). When Schafer subsequently stole second, Flores bobbled the ball and made no throw. One batter later, the Braves tied the game on Diory Hernandez's sharp single past second baseman Danny Espinosa. But Cole Kimball, the promising right-handed reliever, showed some nice flourishes in the inning, especially when he struck out Brooks Conrad on a nice breaking ball. It's 3-3 here at the seventh inning stretch.

End 6, 2:44: Cole Kimball in to pitch the seventh for the Nationals, and Bryce Harper into the game in right field.

Bottom 6 2:42: Balester gave up the lead on a two-run single up the middle by Freddie Freeman, but Ryan Zimmerman has just put the Nationals back on top, 3-2, with a wind-aided home run to right field.

End 5, 2:18: The Nationals just got on the board with a pair of runs against Braves closer Craig Kimbrel, who entered to pitch the fifth. Adam LaRoche got it started with a single, and Alberto Gonzalez and Chris Marrero got the RBIs. But it was Danny Espinosa's at-bat against Kimbrel that stood out. Espinosa looked overmatched at first against Kimbrel's hard stuff, but he fouled back several tough pitches before slapping a double down the third-base line on the 11th pitch of the at-bat. After Marrero's RBI single, Nyjer Morgan struck out for the second time today. It's 2-0, Nationals, and Collin Balester is on to pitch the sixth.

Mid 5, 2:07: A nice outing today by Broderick, who retired the side in order in the fifth, capped by another fine, running play at first base by Chris Marrero on Brooks Conrad's slow roller. Broderick is probably done for the day, having retired six of the seven batters he faced.

End 4, 2:02: Lefty Eric O'Flaherty came on for the Braves and survived a one-out walk to Jayson Werth, getting Ryan Zimmerman to ground into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play. We're scoreless through four, and Broderick is back out there to pitch a second inning.

Mid 4, 1:55: Broderick gave up a one-out double to Nate McLouth, but struck out Freddie Freeman and retired Brian McCann on a grounder to third to escape the inning.

End 3, 1:48: Chris Marrero got the Nationals' first hit of the day, a roped, two-out double down the left field line, but he was stranded there as Beachy struck out Nyjer Morgan. It's still 0-0 here, and Marquis is indeed done for the day. We've got Brian Broderick on the hill for the Nationals.

Bottom 3, 1:40: Just had to get this in: The game was just delayed for about 90 seconds by what appeared to be a swarm of bees that briefly took over right field, sending fans (and Braves right fielder Jordan Schafer) scrambling for cover. The creatures are gone now, and play has resumed.

Mid 3, 1: 36: The Braves actually worked a few counts in the third, and Marquis needing a whopping 14 pitches to retire the side in order. Brooks Conrad hit a chopper to first, which Chris Marrero fielded and narrlowly beat Conrad to first. Diory Hernandez grounded to short. And Matt Young flied to left. That's probably going to do it for Marquis, who has thrown 24 pitches, 16 for strikes. His line: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 W, 1 K. Six of his nine outs came via ground balls.

End 2, 1:28: The Nationals go down in order again against Beachy: Ryan Zimmerman struck out swinging, Adam LaRoche grounded to second, and Wilson Ramos grounded to third.

Mid 2, 1:21: Do the Braves have early dinner reservations back at Disney or something? They went up there hacking again in the second inning -- not that I'm complaining, mind you -- with Marquis only needing six pitches to retire the side in order. Four of the pitches came to Brian McCann, who struck out on a breaking ball in the dirt. Wilkin Ramirez (fly out to center) and Jordan Schaefer (ground out to second) were both retired on first pitches.

End 1, 1:16: A 1-2-3 first inning for the Nationals against Beachy. Nyjer Morgan tapped back to the mound, Roger Bernadina flied out to right, and Jayson Werth struck out swinging on a high fastball.

Mid 1, 1:08: A quick first inning for Marquis: Four pitches, four strikes, three outs. After Martin Prado grounded sharply to shortstop, Nate McLouth ripped a first-pitch fastball into left for a single, but on Marquis's next pitch, rookie Freddie Freeman grounded into a 4-6-3 double play, Espinosa-to-Gonzalez-to-Marrero.

(Additional note: From Nats PR man John Dever, here is the team's radio schedule for the spring, in case you were wondering: 3/6 on 106.7 WJFK-FM; 3/7 on 1580 The Big Talker AM; 3/17 on 106.7 WJFK-FM; 3/18 on 1580 The Big Talker AM; 3/19 on 106.7 WJFK-FM; 3/20 on 1580 The Big Talker AM; 3/24 on 106.7 WJFK-FM; 3/25 on 106.7 WJFK-FM; 3/26 on 106.7 WJFK-FM; 3/27 on 106.7 WJFK-FM.)

Original post: Veteran right-hander Jason Marquis makes his 2011 spring debut for the Nationals today, facing a split-squad Atlanta Braves team and right-hander Brandon Beachy -- a bit of a bummer for me, since the Braves are starting lefty Mike Minor, a fellow Vanderbilt alum and their probable No. 5 starter this season, in their other split-squad game, against Toronto.

Meanwhile, Marquis gets to face a split-squad Braves lineup, missing stalwarts Chipper Jones, Jason Heyward and Dan Uggla. Here's how the Braves line up in Viera: Prado 3B, McLouth CF, Freeman 1B, McCann C, Ramirez DH, Schafer RF, Conrad 2B, Hernandez SS, Young LF.

Finally, let me amend the Nationals' lineup I posted earlier, since the teams have added a DH. Chris Marrero is now in the lineup, playing first base, with Adam LaRoche DH'ing.

I'll live-blog this as best I can, but don't expect any epic, Kilgorian updates. Meat and potatoes here, folks.

By Dave Sheinin  | March 4, 2011; 12:32 PM ET
 
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Next: A quick look back, a quicker look ahead

Comments

Nyjer is done. He's done nothing to show that he can be a true lead-off man. Nothing in the way of hits; no walks; has been on base only twice. This is the 5th game of the preseason and I don't have any confidence that his head is in the game.

Posted by: luv2bikva | March 4, 2011 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Do the Braves have enough horses to chase down the Phillies?

Posted by: tylertyler33 | March 4, 2011 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Re: the bee incident. It was clearly an act of revenge. From the history of the Atlanta Braves on Wikipedia, from their team in Boston, in the mid-30's:

"The new owners tried to change the team's image by renaming it the Boston Bees. This did little to change the team's fortunes. After five uneven years, a new owner, construction magnate Lou Perini, changed the nickname back to the Braves."

Clearly, bees, like elephants, never forget.

Posted by: baltova1 | March 4, 2011 2:01 PM | Report abuse

this morgan thing is getting bad. Does he have options or anything?

Posted by: Section406 | March 4, 2011 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Does he have options or anything?

Posted by: Section406 | March 4, 2011 2:04 PM

Yes - 1

http://www.nationalsarmrace.com/?p=597

Posted by: Kev29 | March 4, 2011 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Nyjer might not be doing a good job of making this team - but Gonzalez and Marrero are. Though Marrero won't this year.

Posted by: Kev29 | March 4, 2011 2:18 PM | Report abuse

I agree with you guys. I know it's early, but when you factor in what happened last year, I don't think Nyjer wants it. Might as well cut him loose and let Roger Bernadina or Michael Morse step in.

Posted by: Kelso4 | March 4, 2011 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Dave! The updates don't have to be epic to be informative. Keep it up!

Posted by: poncedeleroy | March 4, 2011 2:22 PM | Report abuse

@Kelso, I'm with you. I've seen enough; I know defense is important, but the offensive output of Morse/Bernie/Werth (with Ankiel able to fill in if Bernie fails) is just too big an improvement over Morgan's futility. If Morgan can figure it out in AAA, great. Otherwise, it's time to cut bait.

Posted by: Section406 | March 4, 2011 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Nyjer Morgan is to Mike Rizzo what Willie Harris was to Mr. Riggleman. Get used to it. He aint goin nowhere.
Your starting CF and leadoff hitter for the season batting a cool .200, Nyjer Morgan.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | March 4, 2011 2:29 PM | Report abuse

(with Ankiel able to fill in if Bernie fails)

Posted by: Section406 | March 4, 2011 2:24 PM

Not at lead-off he can't. If Bernie can stay hot in spring training and keep showing that he can get on base, maybe give him the lead-off job and send Nyjer down. If Bernie can't keep an OBP high enough then consider Desmond or Espy at lead-off or promote Morgan after some AAA help.

Posted by: Kev29 | March 4, 2011 2:30 PM | Report abuse

>>Your starting CF and leadoff hitter for the season batting a cool .200, Nyjer Morgan

I really gave him the benefit of the doubt on that. He's actually hitting .077. Oops.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | March 4, 2011 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Can Morgan get a ball past the mound?

Posted by: hansenjo | March 4, 2011 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Folks, This is only the 5th ST game and OD is 4 weeks from yesterday. Can we give Nyjer at least another say, 10 games before we start the cry to release him.

IMO, If he continues to struggle, I think he will get released. However, it's a little early to be throwing dirt on the man's grave.

Posted by: Section505203 | March 4, 2011 3:02 PM | Report abuse

If Nyjer got it past the mound, he'd be out at second trying to stretch it into a double. Then he'd charge the mound on the way back to the dugout.

Posted by: bflorhodes | March 4, 2011 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Folks, This is only the 5th ST game and OD is 4 weeks from yesterday. Can we give Nyjer at least another say, 10 games before we start the cry to release him.

IMO, If he continues to struggle, I think he will get released. However, it's a little early to be throwing dirt on the man's grave.

Posted by: Section505203 | March 4, 2011 3:02 PM

Agreed - he has three more weeks to prove himself. Jayson Werth is hitting .167 so far in ST, nothing to worry about there.

Posted by: Kev29 | March 4, 2011 3:04 PM | Report abuse

I updated my Options XLS and posted it online here (for those looking at the nationalsarmrace.com link).

https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0Aoe2S6_m1TendHczVEdGOE43VzdHRVQ2VFZFb2tiREE&hl=en

Ladson posted an article today with option review and he had a couple corrections to my data.

Posted by: tboss | March 4, 2011 3:31 PM | Report abuse

It's not that I have anything against NM, but I have this gut feeling that he's not going to produce. I hope I'm wrong, but I sense that his approach at the plate is just flat out wrong. Is he scared of hitting?

-----

And here comes the storm. Braves up 5-3 in the 9th. Not lookin' good for our boyz.

Posted by: luv2bikva | March 4, 2011 3:32 PM | Report abuse

I agree with those who say we should give Nyjer more time (mainly because they don't have a good alternative on the roster). But I really worry about the fact that he was given a great opportunity last year to be a key player on this team and he melted down. I'm not sure he's going to bounce back from that.

Posted by: baltova1 | March 4, 2011 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Well this is what Spring Training is all about. Young Harper is, I believe, beginning to see the wisdom of doing some time in the minors. Storen will bounce back. I am in the pessimistic crowd when it comes to Morgan. There are more games and weeks for him to make a showing but they are starting to dwindle.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

Posted by: adhardwick | March 4, 2011 3:45 PM | Report abuse

I hope this blog is not indicative of the fan base that will be attending games, damn get rid of Nyjer, after 5 games mind you let's suppose Werth is batting under .250 by the all star break is he out too? The season is 162 games, a marathon not a sprint i can't believe some of you so called fans if Morgan reads some of these post hell should just pack it in no wonder Poopy and others love to post on this blog.

Posted by: dargregmag | March 4, 2011 4:11 PM | Report abuse

The two big takeaways from this game were Jason Marquis (looks good) and Drew Storen (not so good).
Marquis threw really well the last 5 weeks of 2010 and appears sharp now. This has to be the one things Rizzo and Riggs wanted most to see today.
And Drew Storen is having a rough time. he was not ready to close last year, and he's certainly not ready now.

Posted by: Sunderland | March 4, 2011 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Storen's a concern. 2 bad outings in a row IIRC. And I'm not impatient to trash Morgan, opening day is 4 weeks from yesterday. He has time to get it together. Hope he does.

Posted by: utec | March 4, 2011 4:45 PM | Report abuse

This is the second time the Nationals lost the game late. I hope it's not a harbinger of things to come.

This is a much more pleasant blog today.

Posted by: longbow1 | March 4, 2011 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Last two games have been reminiscent of last year - defensive meltdowns.

Posted by: Vze2sr66 | March 4, 2011 7:50 PM | Report abuse

To early to tell about Storen,Morgan, and anybody else for that matter; it has been five games and nothing can be ascertained from anything that has transpired on the field, after three season's of 100 loses yeah their is a tendency to be impatient. The fan base of this franchise had better have a short memory lest we will all be crazy by opening day.

Posted by: dargregmag | March 4, 2011 9:34 PM | Report abuse

I for one am very concerned about Storen. He was clearly a signability pick to conserve money after the Nats drafted Strasburg. He could certainly be a good MLB reliever, but that's not what you use the 10th pick of the draft on. I think the odds of him being a quality closer are slim, and that's what you get when you draft to save money (like the Nats did through 2009).
And of course it's too early in the spring to tell about anybody, but how can you not be concerned about Morgan? It's different if Zim or Werth or even LaRoche stink it up their first 3 games. Those guys are vets who have proven themselves over years. Nyjer had an amazing 6 weeks stretch in 2009, but then he stunk all of 2010. And he opens 2011 with lousy bunting technique, poor situational hitting and it's easy to understand why some people have little faith that he'll ever turn it around.
It doesn't make us bad fans though. Not at all.

Posted by: Sunderland | March 4, 2011 10:17 PM | Report abuse

@longbow1:
In Thursday's 7-5 loss to the Cards, the Cards scored 5 runs in the 4th and 2 runs in the 6th. So not lost in the late innnings as you claim.

But, still, a loss.

Posted by: bertbkatz | March 4, 2011 10:33 PM | Report abuse

I for one am very concerned about Storen. He was clearly a signability pick to conserve money after the Nats drafted Strasburg. He could certainly be a good MLB reliever, but that's not what you use the 10th pick of the draft on. I think the odds of him being a quality closer are slim, and that's what you get when you draft to save money (like the Nats did through 2009).
And of course it's too early in the spring to tell about anybody, but how can you not be concerned about Morgan? It's different if Zim or Werth or even LaRoche stink it up their first 3 games. Those guys are vets who have proven themselves over years. Nyjer had an amazing 6 weeks stretch in 2009, but then he stunk all of 2010. And he opens 2011 with lousy bunting technique, poor situational hitting and it's easy to understand why some people have little faith that he'll ever turn it around.
It doesn't make us bad fans though. Not at all.
Posted by: Sunderland | March 4, 2011 10:17 PM | Report abuse

***********

IAWTP

Posted by: Meridian1 | March 5, 2011 5:46 AM | Report abuse

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