Braves 5, Nationals 4
Freddie Freeman insists the NL East race is far from over.
The Atlanta Braves are 6 1/2 games out of the division lead with
16 games to play, but Freeman believes they still have a good
chance to catch the Washington Nationals.
”I mean have they won the division yet?” Freeman said. ”No,
they haven’t, so obviously we do.”
Pinch-runner Jeff Baker scored the go-ahead run in the eighth
inning when reliever Ryan Mattheus hit Andrelton Simmons’ uniform
with a bases-loaded pitch that helped Atlanta beat the Nationals
5-4 on Saturday.
Jason Heyward and Freeman homered for the Braves, who have won
the first two games in the series and nine of 13.
The Braves beat Washington 2-1 on Friday when Simmons scored on
a throwing error in the ninth inning.
Atlanta began the day with a seven-game lead over third-place
Los Angeles in the NL wild-card race, but Heyward said the team’s
focus is on passing the Nationals in the standings.
”I feel like the last two times we’ve played them we’ve done
better,” Heyward said. ”We’ve taken strides and just tried to
hang in there and keep battling.”
Braves closer Craig Kimbrel earned his 36th save in 39 ties
after striking out the side. After pinch-runner Eury Perez stole
second and made it to third on catcher J.P. Boscan’s throwing
error, Kimbrel struck out Stephen Lombardozzi and pinch-hitter
Tyler Moore to end it.
Eric O’Flaherty (3-0) faced the minimum in the eighth for
Atlanta, extending his scoreless innings streak to 19 1-3 innings,
a span of 22 games.
Mattheus (5-2) allowed one hit, one walk, two walks and no
With the game tied 4-4 in the eighth, David Ross led off the
eighth with a single off Mattheus and moved to second one out later
when Uggla walked. Baker pinch-ran for Ross before Chipper Jones
walked to load the bases.
Mattheus hit Simmons’ uniform to give Simmons an RBI when Baker
scored to make it 5-4.
”I just couldn’t fine the (strike) zone,” Mattheus said. ”I
just couldn’t throw strikes. That’s inexcusable. I didn’t give us a
chance to win that game.”
Nationals manager Davey Johnson was ejected for the first time
this season for arguing what appeared to be a blown call in the
sixth that led to Atlanta scoring two runs to make it 4-all.
Washington starting pitcher Edwin Jackson knocked down Martin
Prado’s liner, picked up the ball off the mound and threw to first
baseman Adam LaRoche.
First-base umpire Marvin Hudson ruled that Jackson’s throw
pulled LaRoche right foot off the bag, but television replays
showed that likely wasn’t the case and that Prado should’ve been
Johnson was upset that Hudson refused to ask another umpire for
help in making sure the call was correct.
”I’ve got old eyes and I could see it,” Johnson said. ”I
thought he overreacted. He wasn’t going to get any help. It was a
Jackson was charged with a throwing error on the play, and
Heyward, the next batter, made it 4-all with his 27th homer, a
Jackson gave up four hits and four runs – three earned – with
one walk and seven strikeouts in 5 1-3 innings.
LaRoche hit his 30th homer, a two-run shot off Tommy Hanson, to
make it 2-0 in the first.
The Nationals went up 4-0 in the second on two errors by the
After Jesus Flores walked with one out, Steve Lombardozzi
reached when Freeman fielded his grounder near first, juggled the
ball while considering a throw to second and was late to the
getting to the bag.
Jackson followed with a bunt single that Hanson fielded in front
of the mound. Hanson threw errantly to first and allowed both
runners to score.
In the bottom of the third, Dan Uggla made it 4-1 with an RBI
Freeman’s 20th homer, a solo shot in the fourth, cut the lead to
4-2. Freeman tripled in the third and singled in the sixth.
”(Washington) is the No. 1 team in the National League,”
Freeman said. ”We’re playing them tough. We’ve beaten them twice
now, so we’ve got a chance to sweep them tomorrow.”
Hanson, who is winless in his last six starts, allowed four hits
and four runs – two earned – with one walk and seven strikeouts in
Jonny Venters pitched the next 1 2-3 innings for Atlanta. Peter
Moylan relieved him with pinch-runner Roger Bernadina at first.
Moylan gave up a single to Jayson Werth that advanced Bernadina to
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez brought in Luis Avilan, who ended
the threat with one pitch when Freeman fielded Bryce Harper’s
grounder and threw to second for the forceout.
Tom Gorzelanny got the final two outs of the sixth for
Washington. Christian Garcia retired two batters in the seventh,
but had runners on first and third when Mike Gonzalez entered and
struck out Heyward.
”This team has had success against us over the past few years,
regardless of where they’ve been in the standings,” Heyward said.
”This year is no different.”
Notes: Jones entered as a pinch-hitter for 3B Juan Francisco in
the sixth and stayed in the game, going 0-for-1 with a walk. …
The official scoring was changed after the game regarding Jackson’s
bunt single in the second. The play was initially ruled a sacrifice
bunt. … The Braves activated RHP Ben Sheets from the 15-day
disabled list before the game. Sheets, 34, will pitch out of the
bullpen for the first time in his 10-year career. … Ross replaced
Brian McCann as the Atlanta catcher before the top of the third and
threw out Lombardozzi trying to steal second in the fourth. McCann
left with tendinitis in his right hamstring. … Nationals LHP Gio
Gonzalez will go for his 20th victory on Sunday. LHP Mike Minor
pitches for Atlanta. … The Braves won just their third series in
their last 14 with Washington.