Nats Split Series with Braves; Els Has Surprise British Open Win; Wiggins first Brit to win Tour de FranceJuly 24, 2012 By Ceci Ferrara
The weekend started out poorly for the Nationals, who blew a 9-0 lead to division rival Atlanta on Friday night.
It seemed like a runaway for Washington, who led nine-zip into the sixth inning. Until then Washington had dominated on offense, assisting starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg who had struggled with control early in the game but nonetheless had kept Atlanta scoreless.
All of that changed in the sixth, when Strasburg struggled and gave up four runs before Nats manager Davey Johnson replaced him with Drew Storen and, later, southpaw Sean Burnett. It wasn’t what Johnson had hoped for: the pair allowed three hits and three walks in the eighth inning, putting the Braves just one run behind at 9-8.
Tyler Clippard was put in for the save – but instead gave up a walk, a wild pitch, and a hit batter before allowing the go-ahead run to score on a two-run triple by Michael Bourn. But it wasn’t over: a solo home run by Nats infielder Danny Espinosa in the bottom of the ninth tied the game – and turned it into an extra-innings saga.
The game was finally decided in the 11th, when Dan Uggla scored on an error by Zimmerman. By the end of the night, the Nats had blown through six pitchers and had their division lead cut to 2 ½ games.
It wasn’t much better for Washington early Saturday, when they were shut out by the Braves 4-0 in the first of a doubleheader. By the evening, however, the Nats had started playing like their division-leading selves. 27-year old left-hander John Lannan made a strong season debut for the Nats, giving up only two runs over seven innings; this lead to a 5-2 win over the Braves in the second game of their doubleheader.
On Sunday, the Nats went ahead early – but this time there was no chance of losing their lead. They were up 7-0 by the time the Braves scored two runs in the sixth inning, their only runs of the game. Ryan Zimmerman made up for his error on Friday by hitting two home runs towards the Nationals’ 9-2 win, and the four-game series was ultimately split with their division rival.
With their consecutive wins on Saturday and Sunday, the Nats kept their lead intact and are 3 ½ games ahead after a shaky weekend. They strive to increase their division lead as they travel to New York to face the Mets (8 and a half games back) for a three-game series.
No one really thought Ernie Els had a chance at the British Open. After all, Adam Scott had a four-point lead with just four holes to play on Sunday. On a betting website, the odds were 469-to-1 that Els would win.
Regardless, four holes later Els was headed towards the winner’s circle. Scott bogeyed on the 15th, 16th ,and 17th holes, and then hit his tee into a bunker on the 18th hole. Meanwhile, Els birdied on the 18th hole to finish -7 and win his fourth major.
Tiger Woods (-3), who had looked like a strong contender on Saturday, ultimately tied for third with fellow American golfer Brandt Snedeker.
Tour de France
On Sunday, 32-year old Bradley Wiggins from London became the first-ever British cyclist to win the Tour de France.
While Wiggins had entered as a favorite, nothing can be taken for granted – after all, the Tour is no easy feat, composed of 2,100 miles of racing on varied terrain over three weeks. After coming in 4th in 2009, 24th in 2010, and crashing out of competition last year, he was more determined than ever to win.
After crossing the finish line, Wiggins congratulated his Sky teammates and hugged his wife and children, while a soprano sang “God Save the Queen” in honor of his homeland.
The ceremony was touching. Wiggins thanked the crowd and said, “It’s been a magical couple of weeks for the team and for British cycling. Some dreams come true. My mother over there, she’s now—her son has won the Tour de France.”
His win, a victory for himself and for all of Britain, brings another honor to the country right before it is set to host the Olympics. Wiggins himself turned his attention to the games, and forwent the winner’s party in order to train. After all, winning the Olympic gold “is a higher priority than anything else,” he said.