There’s really no way to overstate exactly how big this series against the Washington Nationals is for this edition of the Atlanta Braves. The Braves are coming off (literally) the worst road trip in franchise history since the World War II era. I always say if you’re setting records for terrible that even your grandfather barely remembers, that’s pretty awful. Actually I don’t always say that because how often do WWII records ever come up in a conversation? But you get my point, it’s not a good thing.
So it goes without saying that a win against the Nats, who had already extended their division lead to 4.5 games, would help plug the holes on a sinking boat. With the two pitchers on the mound in Ervin Santana and Stephen Strasburg, fans expected a heck of a matchup. If you look at the starters after the All-Star break, there’s nobody you’d want on the mound more than Ervin Santana. Coming into this game, the dread-locked hurler has a 1.93 ERA post-break, and notched 3 wins in 4 games.
Santana was just as dominant against the Nationals early in the game on Friday. Santana went five strong innings allowing no runs and only one hit. Meanwhile, the Atlanta offense decided to finally match his intensity by blasting three two-run homer runs against Strasburg, then adding an extra homer (the first of Tommy La Stella’s career) for good measure. The Braves officially own Strasburg’s head-space. I think their long term plan is to rent it out, and cover some of the expenses on Dan Uggla’s remaining contract.
With a 7-0 advantege in the sixth inning the rain started to roll in, and so did the Washington hitters. After Santana hit the first batter with an inside fastball, the Nats went single-single-home run, putting up four runs in quick succession. With the score 7-4 in favor of the home team, the good news is that Santana was able to squelch the threat just in time for the big thunderclouds to amass over Turner Field. The umpires decided to put the tarps on the field as the teams waited out a long rain delay.
Anthony Varvaro came in for the seventh inning, but the Nats weren’t done. Once the tarps came off after an hour-plus delay, the Nats started the seventh inning off with a solo bomb from Wilson Ramos. That made the score 7-5, and put every Braves fan on edge. Then, the errors happened. A ball didn’t get gloved on a routine grounder. A single to left saw Justin Upton come up with it too slow, and then three guys missed the throw into third base. A sacrifice fly for the Nats put the score at 7-6, and now, Braves Country was in a full-on panic.
Jordan Walden emerged from the bullpen to shut down the remainder of that inning, and then pitch the eighth inning as well. Seeing as the Braves were intent on not getting any insurance runs at all (because that would make things FAR too comfortable for a fanbase suffering through an eight game losing streak), Walden’s great pitching proved to be very key. The ninth belonged to Craig Kimbrel with the season seemingly hanging the balance. After all, if the Braves dropped a seven-run lead and continued the losing streak to nine games, I’d have to start talking people off ledges.
Now, there are saves in a season and then there are SAVES. With the Braves mired in the current losing streak, and the fact that they’d given away most of a seven-run lead, this was the capital letters version for Craig Kimbrel. The first Nationals batter couldn’t catch up to Craig’s blistering fastball. The second batter barely chunked one back to Craig on a 3-2 count. The third batter went down swinging on a Kimbrel K. Three up, three down, Braves win.
B.J. Upton, Justin Upton, Freddie Freeman, and Tommy La Stella all hit homers to total the seven runs scored by the Braves in the game. The MVP in my mind is B.J. Upton, simply because I’m almost never going to get another chance to hand him an MVP for a game. I was shocked he actually hit a homer off of Strasburg. By the way, if you’re Stephen Strasburg and a guy like BJ is hitting jacks off you, isn’t that a sign you’re not the godsend the national media seems to think you are? I certainly hope so. At the very least, Strasburg does not enjoy the confines of Turner Field
The Braves play the Nationals in game two on Saturday, and Aaron Harang will face off against Tanner Roark. If Atlanta can take that game and win the series, I guarantee you will see a lot more Braves fans jumping back on the bandwagon. Stay tuned.
Tags: Atlanta Braves