Game 122: Braves at Nationals

Mike Fiammetta here, helping out Bill Ladson on the blog. As always, head to Nationals.com for in-game updates.

As the Nationals get set for arguably their biggest series since baseball returned to D.C., they received a bit of poor news about their top pick in this year’s First-Year Player Draft, right-hander Lucas Giolito.

ESPN.com’s Keith Law first reported this afternoon that Giolito had reinjured his throwing elbow — the same one in which he suffered a sprained ulnar collateral ligament back in the spring. The injury did not require surgery, though the 18-year-old did not pitch for Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles after the first week of March.

Prior to tonight’s series opener with the Braves, general manager Mike Rizzo said that Giolito experienced soreness after making his professional debut on Aug. 14 in a two-inning outing for the Nationals’ Gulf Coast League affiliate. Giolito was seen by team physician Wiemi Douogui after he experienced the soreness and is in the process of being scheduled for a second opinion with orthopedic specialist Dr. Lewis Yocum.

“We knew when we drafted him that this was an issue,” Rizzo said. “We were comfortable with the fact that the worst case scenario was Tommy John surgery, and we’ll see if that’s where we’re headed. Going into this with our eyes wide open, we felt that this was a scenario and a possibility.”

Up in the big leagues, the Nationals carry a five-game lead over the Braves into tonight’s series-opener. Coming off an 8-2 road trip, the Nats won two of three games with the Mets over the weekend. The Braves, meanwhile, lost the last two of a three-game set with the Dodgers. Nevertheless, they’ve won six of their last 10 to stay within striking distance of the Nationals.

“It’s the Atlanta Braves, they’ve always been one of the best teams in the league,” manager Davey Johnson said. It would be the same feeling no matter how we were [in the standings]. We know they’re pretty good, and they know now that we’re pretty good. It’s going to be fun.”

Tonight, right-hander Jordan Zimmermann takes his MLB-leading 2.38 ERA into a matchup with fellow righty Tim Hudson, who threw 6 1/3 shutout innings against the Padres last Tuesday. One fun fact: since Hudson lost to the Nats on July 1, the Braves have won all eight of hits starts while the 37-year-old veteran posted a 3.12 ERA.

Tonight’s lineups:

Nationals (75-46)

  1. Jayson Werth RF
  2. Bryce Harper CF
  3. Ryan Zimmerman 3B
  4. Michael Morse LF
  5. Adam LaRoche 1B
  6. Ian Desmond SS
  7. Danny Espinosa 2B
  8. Kurt Suzuki C
  9. Jordan Zimmermann RHP

Braves (70-51)

  1. Michael Bourn CF
  2. Martin Prado LF
  3. Jason Heyward RF
  4. Chipper Jones 3B
  5. Freddie Freeman 1B
  6. Dan Uggla 2B
  7. Brian McCann C
  8. Paul Janish SS
  9. Tim Hudson RHP

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