NL East Report: Ryan Howard Returns, Nationals Sweep Giants, Stanton Still Ailing


Atlanta Braves (43-39)

The Braves and Phillies play the first game of a three-game set and the fourth of 18 contests between the two clubs this season. OF Jason Heyward and C Brian McCann each clubbed two-run homers off Matt Garza last night’. The two, two-run round-trippers marked the first time in 10 years that the Braves had more than one homer with runners on base in the opening frame. The last time the Braves accomplished the feat was on August 25, 2002 at Los Angeles, when Chipper Jones (three-run homer) and Javy Lopez (two-run homer) connected off Kaz Ishii. OF Martin Prado went 2-for-4 with two runs scored last night and is batting .356 (73-for-205) with 25 multi-hit games in his last 52 contests, dating to May 8. He ranks seventh in the National League with  a .325 batting average and is second in the league with 32 multi-hit games, two ahead of teammate Michael Bourn. 3B Chipper Jones has gone 7-for-9 in his last two games, on Tuesday and
Wednesday  On Tuesday he posted his third career five-hit game, and his first ever in front of the Atlanta fans. Jones (40 years, 70 days) became the oldest player in Braves franchise history to notch a five-hit game.

Washington Nationals (48-32)

Trailing 5-1 to Matt Cain and SFG in the 7th inning on Thursday. at Nationals Park, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa hit back-to-back solo shots to prompt a stunning 6-5 come-from-behind win and a series sweep of the Giants. During its current 4-game winning streak, Washington has scored 32 runs (8.0 per game) despite being opposed by Matt Cain (career 3.29 ERA), Madison Bumgarner (3.14), Tim Lincecum (3.23) and Tim Hudson (3.42), who rank 12th, 4th, 7th and 16th, respectively, in career ERA among active pitchers (min. 50 starts). The Nationals (48-32, .600) currently own the NL’s best record and are just 0.5-game behind both the Yankees (49-32, .605) and Rangers (50-33, .602) in the dash for MLB’s best record. Washington’s led or shared the NL East’s top spot for 82 of the season’s 92 days. At +60, the Nationals currently own their best run differential since the club landed in DC in 2005. Washington has outscored its opposition, 340-280, this season.

Miami Marlins (40-42)

Carlos Lee went 2-for-4 with a run scored in his Marlins debut, Mark Buehrle tossed 7 2/3 scoreless innings and Miami took down the Milwaukee Brewers, 4-0, in the finale of a four-game series. The Marlins acquired Lee from the Houston Astros for prospects Matt Dominguez and Rob Rasmussen on Wednesday. Despite a sore right knee, Logan Morrison collected 8 RBI in Miami’s four-game series in Milwaukee. He went 6-for-14 with two homers and 2 doubles. Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins was one of the hitters chosen for the Home Run Derby in the upcoming All-Star Week festivities, and he’s also the Marlins’ only representative for the All-Star Game. However, Stanton has been bothered with knee troubles and hasn’t played since Monday. He won’t play Friday, either.  It’s not clear whether another Marlins player would be named if Stanton can’t go to Kansas City for All-Star week,

Philadelphia Phillies (37-47)

The Phillies lost to the Mets at Citi Field, 6-5 in stunning fashion as closer Jonathan Papelbon was victimized by a ninth inning rally that ended on a bloop walk-off single by David Wright. The Phils scored five runs off Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey and looked like they had the game in hand before the bullpen took over. 1B Ryan Howard (left Achilles surgery) was reinstated from the disabled list today. To make room for him on the 25-man roster, INF Hector Luna was optioned to Lehigh Valley (AAA). In his seven combined rehab games between Lakewood (A) and Lehigh Valley (AAA), Ryan Howard batted .500 (10-20), 2 2B, HR, 10 RBI & 5 BB. Hunter Pence enters tonight’s contest with a season-best 10-game hitting streak. Since June 25th, he is hitting .390 (16-for-41) with a double, a triple, 3 HR and 9 RBI (.432 OBP & .683 SLG%).


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