Sometimes you just can’t predict baseball.
First, the Nationals had this game in the bag. Mike Minor started the game out horribly and before you know it the Nationals had a 3-0 lead after the first inning. Minor walked the first two hitters and gave up hits to Jason Werth and Adam LaRoche to steak the Nationals to an early lead. The Braves then proceeded to blow more chances to get back into the game by having 2 on with 1 out in the 1st and 2nd inning and coming away empty-handed. Other than that bad first inning Minor was excellent. He completed 6 innings only giving up 3 hits but walking 4 and only allowing those 3 first inning runs. He retired the last 13 batters that he faced.
The middle of the game was a snooze-fest as Minor and Haren continued to mow down hitters as 19 straight were retired between the two pitchers. Elliot Johnson broke that up with a lead-off double in the 6th and eventually would come home on a Freddie Freeman sacrifice fly. It finally put the Braves on the board and was Freeman’s 100th RBI of the season. He is the first Brave to get 100 RBI in a season since Chipper Jones and Jeff Francoeur both did it in 2007.
The Braves looked like they were about to blow another golden scoring opportunity in the 7th as the got back to back singles from Chris Johnson and Andrelton Simmons with one out. Unfortunately BJ Upton was the next to hit and of course made out number 2. Then Fredi Gonzalez proceeds to pinch hit DAN UGGLA for Mike Minor. Uggla inexplicably singles in a run and cuts the lead to 3-2.
For some reason in the 8th, the Nationals brought in the Braves personal batting practice pitcher, Tyler Clippard. This was not a good move by the Nats. After Freeman walked with 1 out, Clippard had Evan Gattis 0-2 and threw a fastball about shoulder-high. Of course, El Oso Blanco tomahawked that baby into the center-field bleachers to give the Braves a 4-3 lead and seemingly break the Nationals at the same time. The Nationals essentially gifted the Braves an insurance run in the top of the 9th with 2 errors and the Braves turned the ball over to Craig Kimbrel with a 5-3 lead. Nothing could go wrong now, right?
Wrong. Kimbrel just didn’t have it today and could not find any control at all. He walked Adam LaRoche to lead off the inning and then gave up an infield single to Wilson Ramos. To be fair, it was a pretty bad defensive play on a ball hit up the middle. Elliot Johnson tried to flip the ball to Simmons at second with his glove and the ball basically just went straight up in the air. He had plenty of time to stop and make a pitch to Simmons because Adam LaRoche is slow as Christmas, but he rushed it and the Nats suddenly had 2 on with no one out. Kimbrel then walked the next batter, Anthony Rendon, to load the bases, and still hadn’t recorded an out. Kimbrel got pinch hitter Chad Tracy to ground out to Freeman, and his only play was at first to get the out, but the run scored to cut the lead to 5-4 Braves. Then, facing the red-hot Denard Span, Kimbrel got a ground ball directly to the best fielding shortstop in baseball, who promptly let the ball go between his legs and the Nats score two and win the game. Sure if would have still been tied if Simmons made the play and got the out at first, but it was just such a deflating way to lose. The Nats only mustered 4 hits, and only 2 after the first inning, but got SEVEN free passes from the Braves pitchers.
Hopefully, this ugly loss will wake up some of our struggling hitters and get them going. Freeman and Chris Johnson seem to be the only ones that have been hitting consistently of late and they can’t do it alone. The Braves will try to take their magic number down to 2 tonight in the second game of this split double-header. But look on the bright side, at least we have Freddy Garcia on the hill tonight!