Apr 5, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla (26) bats in the eighth inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. The Braves defeated the Nationals 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports
The Atlanta Braves played Game 2 against the Washington Nationals Saturday night, with Julio Teheran opposing Steven Strasburg. For those of you who aren’t familiar with prior games against Strasburg, the Braves have a decided historical advantage against him. Strasburg has a 3.64 ERA against the Braves over the last 3 years, which is well over his career mark of 3.00. Also, Dan Uggla has a rare set of stats against Strasburg, as he hits over .400 against the righty. Both of those stats would be meaningful as the Braves dropped the offensive hammer on Strasburg yet again.
Julio Teheran got into some early trouble in the first inning with a leadoff walk. Those walks will likely make me nervous all season for our pitchers, but in this case it looked like Julio was going to wriggle off the hook. He struck out Harper and Werth, two of the bigger Nats threats in the lineup, bringing Adam LaRoche to the plate. On a 2-2 count, Julio hung a slider out over the middle of the plate, and LaRoche deposited it into the right field upper deck. The Nats took the lead 2-0.
After the Braves went down quickly in the 2nd inning, I was getting worried. The batters were swinging early in the count, chasing Strasburg’s new slider, and giving him easy outs. That’s a recipe for disaster that we saw from prior years when the Braves fell behind early. Too aggressive at the plate and not waiting for advantageous pitches is usually a recipe for disaster. However, in the 4th inning, the Braves caught a break. Justin led off the inning with a single, and then stole second. After two outs, Simmons hit a slow roller to third that Zimmerman tossed well over the head of the Nats 1st baseman, and into the stands. Justin scored on the error and Simmons went to second. That brought up Teheran, who decided to help himself by hitting a looper to right that scored Simmons. Just like that, the game was tied.
You could tell that Strasburg was obviously shaken by that inning. He’d pitched well to that point, but something always seems to go wrong for him when he plays the Braves. His body language completely changed on the mound, and he was constantly trying to get sliders past the Braves hitters. For a guy with his power, he shied away from the fastball way too much. In the 5th inning, following the Zimmerman error and tie game, the wheels completely came off for Strasburg. Freeman would walk, then Chris Johnson would single, and Justin would single. That loaded the bases for, guess who, Dan Uggla. Remember that Dan Uggla average against Strasburg? That came home to roost as Dan singled to left, and scored two runs. Then, Doumit would single to make it 5-2 Braves. At that point, Strasburg’s night was done. Simmons added on a sacrifice fly to make it 6-2, and that was all she wrote.
Julio capped off his evening nicely by going 7 innings with 2 runs given up on the LaRoche homer. BJ had an excellent day with 2 hits, and a superb defense play on a throw that gunned down Lobaton at the plate. The player of the game in my mind though has to be Dan Uggla with his clutch hit that scored the winning runs. It’s not often I get to hand Dan a player of the game honor, so I’m taking every opportunity.
The Braves will play game 3 of the series on Sunday at 1:35. Let’s hope Alex Wood gets the same offensive support as the Braves try to sweep the Nats!