Justin Upton has come out of his early season slump, and in a big way, as he went 3-for-3 from the plate and scored a pair of runs, including hitting the game-tying home run in the bottom of the eighth and the game winning bloop single in the bottom of the 10th to give his Atlanta Braves the series opening win against the Washington Nationals by a 7-6 score.
It was a back and fourth affair throughout, starting in the bottom of the second inning when Evan Gattis singled to score Upton for the first run of the series. The very next batter, Ramiro Pena, who got the start in place of an injured Andrelton Simmons, took a Tanner Roark fast ball over the right field fence to bring Gattis and Dan Uggla across the plate, and give the Bravos an early 4-0 lead.
The Nationals would score their first run in the top of the fourth, as Ian Desmond singled into left, bringing home former Brave Adam LaRoche, and again in the top of the fifth on a Ryan Zimmerman home run (also to left), which brought home Jayson Werth and LaRoche for a second time, to tie the game at four.
The Braves would momentarily retake the lead in the bottom half of the fifth, after Chris Johnson bounced a single into right field to plate Freddie Freeman, but in the top of the sixth, the Nats would take tie the game right back in the top of the sixth after Kevin Frandsen knocked a base hit to plate Jose Lobaton.
Washington took their first lead of the game in the top of the eight inning, when Denard Span would bloop a single past a sliding Justin Upton, and have Bryce Harper score from first. Justin wasted little time making up for his misplayed ball, taking Tyler Clippard yard to near dead-center field on a fast ball to tie the game.
With two outs in the bottom of the 10th, Johnson worked a single, and was immediately replaced on the base paths by Jordan Schafer, which turned out to be the best decision Fredi G. would make on the night, as Mr. Clutch (Justin Upton) would pop a single that’d fall right between Harper and Anthony Rendon to win the game.
It was a rough night for both starters, but they somehow were able to ride out – for the most part – poor location and a lot of contact. For Roark, he lasted 4.2 innings, allowing five runs on five hits while striking out three. Braves starter Julio Teheran lasted six innings, and allowed 10 hits, with half of those hits coming in to cross the plate (however, Teheran only allowed two earned runs), while striking out and walking a single batter.
Jordan Walden had a nice bounce-back performance after loading the bases on Wednesday night against New York by striking out two and having a better time with his control, allowing just a single hit.
As a staff, the Braves struck out a total of eight Nationals, including an impressive 9th inning from Craig Kimbrel by striking out the side.
The Braves were incredibly frugal offensively, by scoring seven times on “just” nine hits (compared to only six runs on 14 Washington hits), and in the midst of a stretch where offense has seem to gone astray, tonight was a good night to remind us that the bats are still there, as well that it is still early.
Back to the night’s hero, Justin Upton – in his past two games, the man is 6 for his last 7 from the plate, scoring four runs and knocking in five RBI.
While, yes, it’s still early in the season, it’s always fun to beat the Nats. Stay tuned as these two teams face off again on Saturday night at Turner Field.