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.