Off to a sluggish start despite being projected as a World Series contender, the Washington Nationals have been in need of a signature win to jump-start their season.
They hope their latest victory over the Atlanta Braves can be a turning point.
Coming off the biggest comeback win in team history, the Nationals look to build on a sensational offensive showing when they face a pitcher that has routinely shut them down in Alex Wood in Wednesday night’s series finale in Atlanta.
Washington (8-13) entered Tuesday eight games out of first place and appeared to be on its way to a seventh straight loss as it trailed 9-1 after two innings. The Nationals chipped away with four in the fifth and tacked on another three in the seventh but still entered the ninth trailing by two.
Dan Uggla completed the rally with a three-run homer in the ninth to send Washington to a 13-12 victory. The Nationals’ previous biggest comeback was June 17, 2006, when they trailed the New York Yankees by seven runs, and the Montreal Expos twice rallied from at least eight down to win, most recently in 2003.
"We’re going to have to keep working and come back (Wednesday) ready to play with the same attitude we had the whole game," Uggla said.
One of the most encouraging signs was the offense finally got going.
The Nationals had 15 hits with nine going for extra bases after averaging 2.3 runs while batting .189 and totaling 11 extra-base hits during the losing streak.
Uggla, released last year by the Braves and still owed over $18 million at the time, also tripled and drove in five runs after entering with a .135 average and two RBIs. Denard Span had a homer, three doubles and a single to match a career high for hits and scored four times after going 6 for 29 with no extra-base hits in his first seven games.
The Nationals now have the difficult task of facing Wood (1-0, 3.00 ERA), who is 3-1 with a 1.49 ERA in six starts against them. He has stuck out 44 in 36 1-3 innings and limited Ryan Zimmerman to one hit in seven at-bats.
Wood threw 5 2-3 scoreless innings, allowing five hits while striking out one and walking two in Friday’s 1-0 loss to Philadelphia. The left-hander did a good job of limiting baserunners after posting a 1.58 WHIP in his first three starts.
”My stuff is coming around,” he said.
The Braves (10-10) are trying to quickly move on from Tuesday’s embarrassing loss, the franchise’s first when scoring at least 12 runs since a 13-12 defeat at Colorado on June 8, 1996. In losing for the sixth time in eight games, Atlanta wasted a 17-hit attack with Freddie Freeman and A.J. Pierzynski getting four apiece.
”You’re up 9-1 in the second inning and that’s a game you’re supposed to win,” Pierzynski said.
Freeman is heating up, going 8 for 13 with three doubles in his last three games following a 1-for-18 slump. Since the start of last season, he is batting .458 against the Nationals and has gone 4 for 8 versus Jordan Zimmermann (1-2, 5.23).
After being tagged for 12 runs over 8 2-3 innings in a pair of losses, Zimmermann gave up two runs and six hits – all singles – in six innings of Friday’s 3-2 defeat to Miami. The right-hander has rarely been hit hard, surrendering a homer and two doubles for his only extra-base hits allowed.
He is 2-1 with a 2.10 ERA in five starts against the Braves since 2013.