The best thing about watching the Atlanta Braves play the Washington Nationals is watching Washington’s pitching staff squirm. Stephen Strasburg, the famed right-hander, doesn’t like pitching against Atlanta. In fact, he hasn’t been credited with a win against Atlanta since 2012. The Braves have set up a nice apartment inside Strasburg’s mind. They put up some new blinds, an end table from Pottery Barn, and a rug that really ties the whole room together. It’s really quick cozy in there for the Braves hitters, like a second home. Just kick back, relax, and let Stephen go quietly nuts as the Braves plink away from the confines of his head space. Despite the fact that Atlanta owns Strasburg, the Braves would be forced to overcome a blown save from Craig Kimbrel in order to grab an extra-inning, 6-4 victory.
In the second game of this four-game series, Strasburg gave up the early lead on a Freddie Freeman homer, then found himself down 2-1 on an Andrelton Simmons RBI single. That damage could have been contained, but the Braves fortunately have Jason Heyward. In the fifth inning, they busted the game wide open on Heyward’s double that made the score 4-1, and while the Nats would strike back in the seventh to draw within two runs, Atlanta’s bullpen looked to put out the fires. Anthony Varvaro came on in the eighth inning, and gave up two hits, but he was about to wriggle off the hook with no damage.
That meant it was Kimbrel time yet again in the ninth. Craig still doesn’t look good with his control at times, and it burned him here. He took the first hitter to a 3-2 count, then lost him to a walk. I’ll be the first to tell you, lead-off walks are likely juggling with fiery pokers. Sure, you can get away with it sometimes, and yeah it looks pretty cool, but eventually you burn a giant hole in your leg. Guess what? Craig Kimbrel has a new burn after that mistake, as he gave up a 2-out home run to Anthony Rendon to tie the game. Craig’s control has been an issue all year, and eventually he’s going to have to get right or these kinds of blown saves will keep happening.
That sent the game into extras, and by extras, I mean 13 innings. Yes, the Braves turned what should have been an easy win into ANOTHER 13-inning burn on the bullpen. This time, however, the result was different. The Braves were the ones to score in the top half of the 13th inning with a walk by B.J. Upton, a single by Freeman, and a single by Evan Gattis. That would give Atlanta the 5-4 advantage, but they weren’t done. After loading the bases, Simmons grounded into what should have been a routine double play. However, in typical Nats fashion, they booted the ball and only got one allowed another run to score. That send the game to the bottom half of the 13th with the Braves in front by a 6-4 margin.
Jordan Walden came on for the save in the bottom half. He got the first hitter to fly out to right, mowed down the second hitter with a fastball strikeout, and got the last hitter to roll out to short. 1-2-3, Braves victory. Easy as pie. The Braves ended the game with 6 runs on 12 hits, with the player of the game, Freddie Freeman, adding 3 hits, including a home run, and 3 runs scored. Mike Minor had a good outing, going 7 innings with just 2 runs and 11 strikeouts, but he didn’t qualify for the win due to Kimbrel’s blown save.
The Braves finished the night just 4-for-5 with runners in scoring position, but they did have 3 doubles, a home run, and 3 two-out RBI’s. That’s a nice collection of hitting stats even if they did require 13 innings. Atlanta takes the first two games in the four game series, and they look to continue their dominance in Game 3 on Saturday night. Doug Fister will face Julio Teheran in yet another stellar pitching match-up, so stay tuned for all the coverage.