The Nationals bullpen shut Bobby Cox’s Braves down by throwing three scoreless innings on Sunday. Both Sean Burnett and Drew Storen had spotless performances from the mound against Atlanta as Washington took two of three from a club attempting to salvage a Wild Card berth.
Burnett retired all six batters he faced including veteran hitter and first baseman Derrek Lee who stepped up to the plate for a pinch hit attempt in the eighth.
Burnett got the win and Storen earned his fifth career save by retiring the side in the ninth, proving that the Nats young guns have some depth going into 2011.
“For them to be going this strong this late in the year, it’s really a testament to their preparation and the confidence that they’re building,” manager Jim Riggleman said after the game.
The Nats’ reliable work-horse Livan Hernandez had a milestone Sunday worth mentioning despite his no-decision start. Hernandez reached 200 innings pitched in a season for the tenth time in his career at the close of the day’s first inning.
Hernandez then threw four scoreless innings to start the game before giving up a first-pitch solo home run to Braves left fielder Rick Ankiel in the fifth. Hernadez wouldn’t give up another run the seventh when Ankiel, who went 2-for-4 against Washington, hit an RBI-double to tie the game at two runs a piece.
The tie didn’t last long though. Ian Desmond came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs to face Jonny Venters as the sixth Nats batter of the seventh inning. Venters went on to lose the Braves’ lead when Desmond came through with a clutch two-RBI single.
“Regardless of what’s going on in the ball game, you can’t take any of the previous at-bats up there with you later. You can’t take it out on defense and that’s what he does. Every day he goes out there he gives you a good hard nine innings.”
The Nationals head into their final home series of the season against the first place Philadelphia Phillies Monday at 7:05. Left-handed pitcher John Lannan (8-7, 4.58) will face National League Cy Young contender Roy Halladay (20-10, 2.53).