Three Cuts: Braves clip Nats, earn 12th straight win

Here are three things we learned from the Braves’ 2-1 win over the Nationals — securing Atlanta’s 12th consecutive victory.

1. The Braves bullpen capped this crucial win with a flurry of dominance

Clinging to a 2-1 lead late in the game, Jordan Walden and Craig Kimbrel erased all lingering doubts, striking out the side in the eighth and ninth innings.

For Walden, he devoured Ian Desmond, Wilson Ramos and Denard Span in the eighth, without incident.

For Kimbrel, he plowed through Anthony Rendon, Chad Tracy and Bryce Harper to clinch his 35th save — tops among National League relievers.

Regarding the final punch-out, Kimbrel lured Harper into a trap of chasing high heat on strike three, an impossible-to-hit pitch that registered 99 mph on the radar gun (source: the Braves’ TV crew).

Check out Kimbrel’s numbers over the last 90 days:

Since May 9, covering 31 appearances and 31 innings, Kimbrel has absurdly tallied a 0.58 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 49/12 K-BB ratio.

Within that span, he has also converted on 24 straight save opportunities.

2. Evan Gattis’s heroic turn in the fifth inning was a nice diversion from a lackluster aversion

From this writer’s perspective, there are few baseball, uh, traditions more inane than benches needlessly clearing after a harmless hit-by-pitch — similar to Harper’s overreaction to a Julio Teheran HBP in the 5th.

(Harper homered against Teheran two innings prior.)

Roughly eight minutes after the so-called incident, full of sound and fury but ultimately signifying nothing, Gattis treated Braves fans (and those who cover the team with passionate disinterest) to a genuine moment of on-field intrigue, lacing an inside-out, opposite-field single to right field, scoring B.J. Upton (two hits, two steals vs. Washington) and Andrelton Simmons.

The two-out, two-RBI hit was the only blemish on Gio Gonzalez’s resume, as both he and Stephen Strasburg turned in sublime performances for Monday and Tuesday … but with no Washington wins to show for it.

As a result, the Braves (69-45) now lead the second-place Nats (54-59) by a staggering 14 1/2 games. Before you know it, there will be talk of “magic numbers” and Atlanta clinching the NL East before the first NFL Sunday (Sept. 8).

Incidentally, if the postseason started today, the Braves would own the No. 1 seed in the National League playoffs, which should be their primary goal from this point forward.

Back to Gattis (seven RBI since July 29): He had a productive July (one homer, six RBI, .263 batting), but those numbers are a far cry from the 12 homers, 32 RBI and .280 batting average for April and May combined.

Perhaps Tuesday’s bout of pinch-hit glory (subbing for an injured Jason Heyward — strained neck) will spark the next run of timely extra-base hits and tape-measure homers.

3. The Braves are just three wins from tying the franchise’s modern-day record of 15 straight victories

It wasn’t my intention to minimize the 1891 Boston Beaneaters’ feat of 18 straight victories (Sept. 16-Oct. 2), a streak that coincides with Hall of Famer Cy Young’s first full season in the big leagues.

But it’s not like anyone from two centuries ago is still around to give me guff about the omission.

And even if that 127-year-old person — who would also double as a Beaneaters/Boston Braves/Milwaukee Braves/Atlanta Braves fan — were still around to lament the snub, I’d still question their memories of teams from the Dead Ball Era.

That hypothetical, Guinness-record-setting person would have been 3 years old back then.

Besides, at least two of the 18 consecutive victories had to come via forfeit … in terms of teams not getting to cities like Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Brooklyn, Cincinnati or Pittsburgh on time.

Fast forward to the recent past: The Braves’ modern-day record of 15 straight wins (2000 — April 16-May 2) included victories over the Brewers, Phillies, Pirates, Padres and Dodgers (two series). And during that period of excellence, Atlanta pitching surrendered only 34 runs (over 141 innings), for a cumulative ERA of 2.17.

For the Braves’ current win streak, the offense has per-game averages of 5.9 runs; and the pitching has a cumulative ERA of 2.33 during this period of superb, but not-yet-century-defining greatness.