By Michael Marzzacco
The Washington Nationals routed the Atlanta Braves 9-1 in a hot Sunday afternoon at Nationals Park as the bats heated up and Tanner Roark had another impressive outing on the mound. Bryce Harper returned to the lineup after missing the previous five games with a stiff neck injury. It was a hot one for a lot of fans as the game time temperature was 96 degrees. Many fans were under cover in the shade or lounging in some of the clubs in the ballpark.
The Nats tallied three runs in the first inning. Trea Turner led off with a doulbe into left field. Ben Revere came up and bunted. Braves catcher Anthony Recker picked up the ball and threw it over the head of first baseman Freddie Freeman, allowing Turner to score and Revere to get to second base. Harper, in his first at bat since the injury, launched a double to the left field warning track to the wall to score Revere and put Washington up 2-0. It looked to be about five feet from a homer. The Nats third run came on a Anthony Rendon sacrifice fly that scored Harper from third.
The Braves got a run back in the third inning. With one out, Ender Inciarte doubled. Roark tried to pick him off at second, it was a close call that went to review. The ruling was safe and despite Dusty Baker challenging it the call stood. The Braves got their first and only run of the afternoon after that when Erick Aybar singled Inciarte in. The Nats got out of the inning with a double play, the first of two consecutive double plays. The second occurred an inning later.
Roark also had a nice fielding play in the fifth inning. Chase d’Arnaud hit a bouncer in the infield, Roark barehanded the baseball and jumped-threw to first for the out.
In the fifth, up 4-1 with a sac fly by Wilson Ramos, Rendon came up with runners at the corners with two outs. Rendon smacked a three run homer into the visitor’s bullpen out in left field putting the Nats up 7-1.
Roark went seven innings for the 15th time in his career. He improved his record to 13-6 with the win and struck out three batters.
The Nats added another run in the bottom of the seventh. With Revere on second, Ramos hit a pop up near foul territory on the first base side. Freeman lost it, perhaps from the sun, the ball dropped and Revere raced around to score. The Nats got their final run of the day when Chris Heisey sent a pitch into the red seats in left-center.
The Nats head to Coors Field to take on the Colorado Rockies in a three-game set beginning tonight at 8:40 p.m. Expect a lot of baseballs to be hit out of the park as Coors Field is one of the most hitter-friendly parks in baseball. Max Scherzer (12-7, 2.80 ERA) will go up against Jorge De La Rosa (7-7, 5.25 ERA).