As the Braves entered this four-game set with Washington, they were reeling and in the midst of a four-game losing streak that included a sweeping defeat against Detroit. Let’s take a look at what transpired when they returned home and were visited by the Nationals.
Monday, April 29th – Win (3-2)
The headline of this game nationally was certainly the forearm tightness for Stephen Strasburg, but in Braves country, this was a very nice victory. Julio Teheran allowed only 2 runs over 5.1 innings for Atlanta, and the bullpen slammed the door 3.2 innings of no-hit baseball from Jordan Walden (who got the win), Eric O’Flaherty, and the great Craig Kimbrel. The bats weren’t particularly alive in this game as they generated just 7 hits, but the situational hitting came through in big spots as Gerald Laird tied the game with an RBI single in the 4th, and Andrelton Simmons gave the Braves their final lead on a sacrifice fly in the 7th. This was a “ho-hum” victory, but Fredi Gonzalez and company will take any win they can get.
Tuesday, April 30th – Win (8-1)
Tim Hudson won his 200th career game on Tuesday night after he threw a 7-inning gem (3 hits, 1 earned run) and helped his own cause by providing a solo home run, double, and 2 runs scored. It was frankly the “Tim Hudson Show” throughout, but the Atlanta lineup also came to play, as they mashed Gio Gonzalez and company to the tune of 12 hits and 8 runs. Andrelton Simmons led off the game with a home run (and amassed 3 hits), Chris Johnson and Evan Gattis each notched 2 hits, and Freddie Freeman stroked 3 singles to account for 3 RBIs. It was a perfectly fitting night to honor the milestone from Hudson, and the perfect microcosm was Hudson’s home run ball glancing off of the glove of Bryce Harper before getting out of the ballpark.
Wednesday, May 1st – Loss (2-0)
For as much fun as Tuesday was, Wednesday was equally brutal. Jordan Zimmermann absolutely befuddled the Braves lineup, throwing 8 shutout innings and allowing only 2 hits (one of which was to Paul Maholm) to lead Washington to a victory. Speaking of Maholm, he was nearly as impressive as Zimmermann, but he succumbed to a crucial mistake that led to the game’s only run-scoring play as Ian Desmond mashed a 2-run home run in the 4th inning. As I stated on Wednesday evening, this was a “cap tip” game for Atlanta, as they basically just ran into the buzzsaw of a scorching-hot ace, but that doesn’t make the loss any less frustrating.
Thursday, May 2nd – Loss (3-1)
This one stung a little bit. The previously ineffective Dan Haren shut down the Atlanta lineup with 8 strong innings (4 hits, 1 ER, 1 walk) in an effort that actually lowered his ERA to 5.01. Obviously, Haren is a former ace and it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that he could have “it” back, but the timing was less than desirable for Atlanta. Dan Uggla‘s 7th-inning home run was the only scoring for the Braves, and other than that, the only Brave that seemed to solve Haren on this night was Evan Gattis, who finished the night going 2-for-4 at the plate. The offensive hero of the night was Denard Span, who was the game’s only 3-hit player, and he finished with 2 doubles and 2 RBI for good measure.
After the big-time success on Monday and Tuesday, a series split feels empty in this situation. However, facing the Nats’ top-four in their rotation is no small task, and if the Braves continue to pitch at this rate (both Maholm and Medlen were strong in their losses), the wins will pile up in a big way. Stay tuned as the Mets come to town for the weekend.