Apr 12, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves left fielderJustin Upton
(8) slides into home to score before the tag by Washington Nationals catcherSandy Leon
(41) in the fifth inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Game 2 between the Atlanta Braves and the Washington Nationals proved to be just as weird as the first matchup. Luckily, the result was the same in that the Braves came away with a win. If anything, the Braves are hitting the ball well, and they are taking advantage of many Nationals mistakes. The downside is that the bullpen let the Nationals flirt with disaster several times, putting most of the fans on edge.
The weird parts came on the base paths and in the field. The Nats had two runners thrown out at second base on pick off plays that killed innings for them. They also hit another ball into the outfield that got stuck under the fence, causing a ground rule double instead of an inside the park home run. Nate Mclouth caught a ball in right field but fumbled the transfer. The umps then called everyone safe on the play. Even funnier, the Nationals challenged a call at first base, lost, and then couldn’t challenge what should have been a double play catch and tag. As a result, the Braves got a free runner on second. It was just a comedy of errors in the field, including 3 actual fielding errors by the Nats.
I think at this point it’s safe to say the Braves are in the Nationals’ collective heads. They can’t seem to function the same way against Atlanta as they do when playing equally talented teams. The Braves seem to thrive against the Nationals, especially at the plate. Justin Upton, Evan Gattis, and Freddie Freeman all had a big night with 3 hits a piece. BJ Upton (editor’s note: !!!!!!) and Freddie both had homers. Gattis and Justin Upton both had doubles. Justin actually had two, but who’s counting? With 13 hits, it’s a little surprising the Braves didn’t score more runs.
The pitching was an issue, and part of the reason the game took so long to finish. Alex Wood was ok, but never really dominant on the mound, despite only allowing one run. The problem was that he allowed 9 base runners in just 5 innings of work. Also, The leadoff hitter for the Nats reached base in 6 innings.That’s the kind of stat that will absolutely kill you as a pitching staff if the opposing team can put anything together. The fact that the Nats kept running themselves out of rallies is really what spared the Braves from ever handing the game back over. In fact, even in the 9th inning with Kimbrel out there and a 3 run lead, nothing was coming easy. Craig put a runner on and ran up 3 ball counts twice in his save attempt. That made everyone a little nervous, but Kimbrel battled back to get his 5th save of the season.
Braves finished 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position, something that aptly indicates why they didn’t put more runs up the board despite their large hit totals. However, those two RISP hits were by Dan Uggla, so that makes me feel a whole lot better about his approach at the plate. BJ also had a good night with his 2 hits, so things may be coming together for the “Struggle Twins” of last year. Hopefully the bullpen can get their stars aligned as well, and we’ll have one of the more dominant teams in the league.
Stay tuned for a possible Braves sweep on Sunday!