Tune in at 8:05 PM ET as the Nationals take on the Braves. Ian Hunter will be liveblogging for your enjoyment.
Good evening, everyone! Welcome to Sunday Night Baseball and tonight's Score liveblog of the Washington Nationals at the Atlanta Braves.
Here are your starting lineups for this evening:
Washington Nationals (89-56)
SP: Gio Gonzalez (19-7, 2.93 ERA)
Atlanta Braves (83-63)
C. Jones 3B
SP: Mike Minor (8-10, 4.42 ERA)
Tonight, it's a preview of what we could see in October as it looks like both of these clubs will be playoff bound come October. So far, the Braves have taken the first two games of the series and will be looking for the series sweep at home against the Nats at Turner Field.
The Nationals are looking for their 90th win of the season tonight over the Braves, and Washington hasn't topped 90 wins in a season since 1933 ... that was incredibly 79 years ago. The Nats bats have remained hot against the Braves, as they've scored 5 or more runs in 10 of 17 contests against them this season.
While the Washington Nationals have been a revelation in 2012, the Atlanta Braves continue to be a team that is a consummate winner. No matter how the rest of the season shakes down, the Braves will post their 20th winning season in the past 22 years.
Gio Gonzalez gets the ball tonight for the Nationals and looks to be baseball's first 20 game winner. Gio would also become the first 20-game winner in Nationals history of he picks up the W tonight. Ross Grimsley did win 20 games for the Expos in 1978, though.
Gio Gonzalez has been solid as of late, and in his last 7 starts he's 6-1 with a 1.82 ERA. Gonzalez has not given up more than 3 earned runs in the last 7 consecutive starts.
Mike Minor heads to the hill for the Braves, and while his peripherals haven't been quite as impressive as Gio Gonzalez', Minor is 2-3 in his last 7 starts with a 2.82 ERA. Minor threw 115 pitches in his last start, which was a career high. He went 5.2 innings while striking out 8 against the Brewers.
Now the hometown Braves take the field, as Mike Minor gets his warmup tosses in.
Jayson Werth goes after the very first pitch of the ballgame. It's an easy fly ball to left field, as Reed Johnson is camped under it for the first out of the game.
Bryce Harper at the dish now, and when Harper is on, so are the Nats. When he homers in a game, Washington is 13-4.
Harper will have to wait to get on the board, as he grounds one right up the middle to another rookie, Atlanta's Andrelton Simmons. Now two away for the Nats.
Ryan Zimmerman pokes one into right field to get something going here for Washington. Good bat control there to take the outside pitch and go opposite field.
Adam LaRoche now at the plate ... and he has reached the 30 HR mark now for the second time in his career. He leads all MLB first baseman with 30 home runs and 60 extra base hits.
Zimmerman ends up stranded on the basepaths as LaRoche flies out to left field, just like Jayson Werth did to lead off the game. An inning bookended by flies to left field, as we move to the home half.
Due up for the Braves in the home half, it's Bourn, Johnson and Heyward.
Gio Gonzalez goes to work against the top third of the Braves lineup, and here is an inexplicable picture of his dog.
And with that, Michael Bourn leads off the game by sitting on the curveball, and making contact on the ball in the bottom half of the zone. It's a single into CF.
Bourn reaches base, and he has 39 stolen bases on the season - that's tops in the NL. He's been caught 11 times on the season.
2-1 count here on Reed Johnson. It will be tough for Bourn to pick up the SB against the left-handed pitcher in Gonzalez.
Perhaps that speed on base is distracting Gio a bit, as he now has Reed Johnson at a 3-1 count.
On the payoff pitch at 3-2, Reed Johnson fouls the pitch off to the right side. No signs of movement from Michael Bourn on that pitch.
Bourn was in fact on the move there on the payoff pitch that time, but Reed Johnson clips that back to the screen. So he has to trot back to first, and the count remains at 3-2 to Reed Johnson.
This has now become a 9-pitch battle between Gio and Reed Johnson. Reed fouls that last pitch into the stands on the right side.
So after 10 pitches, Gio Gonzalez finally gets Reed Johnson to fly out to right field.
The long and lanky Jason Heyward now steps in the box to face Gonzalez. Bourn still at first base, now one away.
Well, that's one way to sacrifice ... as Heyward grounds to second base, and advances Bourn up to second base. The Nats get Heyward at the bag for the second out.
There isn't a man who wears the turtleneck any better, it's Chipper Jones up for the Braves/
Jones is just 3 hits shy of tying Lou Gehrig for 58th place all time on the hit list.
Chipper's in the drivers seat now with the 3-1 count against Gio Gonzalez.
Jones hits a soft roller right up the middle, as Desmond ranges over and grabs and fires to first base.
So both teams get a man on base in the first inning, but neither manage to cash them in, or get them to even third base for that matter. On to the 2nd inning we go!
Due up for the Nats in the 2nd: it's Desmond, Espinosa and Moore.
So not only do the Nationals have the top slugger at first base in Adam LaRoche, but they also have the most HR's in the Majors in Ian Desmond.
Desmond leads all shortstops with 23 home runs, a .518 SLG and .843 OPS.
Ian Desmond looking at add another home run to his tally there, but it's a little short. Fly out to left field on the first pitch from Mike Minor, and that's one away.
And just like that, Mike Minor only needs 2 pitches to get his first 2 outs. Espinosa also swings at the first pitch, and pops up to LaRoche at first base.
Even count at 2-2 now to Tyler Moore.
Mike Minor surrenders the first free pass of the game, as he walks Tyler Moore with two out here.
Kurt Suzuki ends the top of the 2nd, he bounces out to short and the Braves get the force out of Moore at second base.
Second straight inning in which the Nationals get a man on base, but yet another runner stranded. On to the home half!