Three Cuts: Braves squander big lead, fall to Uggla’s Nats, 13-12

Shortstop Andrelton Simmons (two runs, two RBI) was one of eight Braves regulars to notch at least one hit against the Nationals on Tuessday.

Dale Zanine

ATLANTA — Here are a few detailed takes from the Braves’ 13-12 loss to the Washington Nationals on Tuesday, an entertaining, but baffling outing which featured 32 hits, 25 runs, numerous passing showers … and one memorable revenge homer from former Brave Dan Uggla:

This was a momentous victory for Washington, outside of snapping a season-long six-game losing streak.

It represented the first time in post-Expos history (the club relocated to Washington in 2005) the Nationals had rallied from an eight-run deficit to post the victory. (Technically, the Nats overcame a pair of eight-run holes on this night.)

It also had a measure of redemption for Uggla, the former Braves slugger (79 HRs/225 RBI from 2011-14) who had quickly vanished from the radar of the National League’s best-hitting second baseman in 2014, only to experience a revival with the Nationals in 2015.

For the night, Uggla tallied two runs, three hits and five RBI — capped by the three-run homer off Braves closer Jason Grilli in the 9th. On that strike-2 pitch, Uggla turned on the fastball and launched it well over the left-field wall.

With that stroke of power, Washington (thanks to Uggla and Denard’s Span four runs and five hits) had completed a franchise comeback for the ages — or at least this century.

"(Tuesday’s loss) was a perfect example of letting (the other team) hang around," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez in his postgame address. "This is the major leagues, and anybody can run you out of the ballpark; and that’s exactly what happened in the end."

Regarding the go-ahead blast, Gonzalez diminished it by saying of Grilli … "He’s human."

It’s also human to be motivated by a chorus of boos — which Uggla (two-run triple in the 7th off Luis Avilan) had to endure on consecutive nights.

Regarding the boisterous fans, Braves slugger Freddie Freeman had this thought: "(Uggla) kind of shut them up tonight, didn’t he?"

Every Braves starter (minus the pitcher Teheran) notched at least one hit and one run against Nationals pitching.

The 3-4-5 hitters — Freeman (three runs, four hits), A.J. Pierzynski (four hits, four RBI), Alberto Callaspo (one run, one RBI, two hits) — were especially fruitful in the rain, helping the Braves push across seven runs in the second inning alone.

By all accounts, it seemed like a back-breaking rally for the Braves (10-10), who would eventually succumb to the proud, but lowly Nats (8-13).

On paper, it made sense for Washington skipper Matt Williams to start A.J. Cole in his major-league debut (emergency start for Max Scherzer), instead of initially handing the ball to reliever Tanner Roark, who hadn’t collected more than four outs in four of his last five appearances.

The results weren’t pretty, though, with Cole getting touched for nine runs (four earned) and nine hits.

Remember how Roark (15-10, 2.85 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 138 Ks) was most likely the best No. 5 starter in baseball last season … and would have merited the same slot in 2015, if the Nationals hadn’t shelled out $210 million to Scherzer over the winter?

When Teheran exited stage left with two outs in the 6th, the Nationals had a 7-spot on the scoreboard.

But three of the Washington runs came of the ‘unearned’ variety — the partial result of Callaspo’s early error in the fifth inning … eventually leading to Jose Lobaton’s three-run homer in the same frame.

The larger perspective can be rationalized on two fronts:

a) Yes, Teheran didn’t have his best stuff, but he was also pitching to the score once Atlanta jumped out to a 9-1 lead, walking zero batters, registering a 70/30 strike-to-ball ratio and essentially letting his fielders handle the rest.

b) Yes, Teheran has a dreadful ERA of 7.20 over his last three starts, but the Braves were within a whisker of claiming two victories in that stretch.

That’s a good sign, in theory, for a plucky team which badly needs their ace to rebound, once the calendar turns to May.

"I’m a little concerned" about Teheran, said Gonzalez, in a moment of true candor. "(The Nationals) had a lot of pretty good swings at him — from all kinds of counts."

Braves vs. Nationals

Gonzalez then expanded on this statement, speculating that Teheran’s troubles are more "location"-centric or "mechanical" … than any kind of physical malady.

"Everyone goes through a slump," said Freeman of Teheran, who continually topped out at 92-93 mph in Tuesday’s outing.

Here are two other bits worth mentioning:

**Teheran’s pitching highlight came in the 3rd, with two out and Bryce Harper at the plate. On one pitch, the young and powerful Harper crushed a moon shot that originally started fair … but eventually tailed foul.

On the next pitch, with Harper all keyed up, Teheran pulled the string on a beautiful changeup, easily fanning the right fielder.

**Pitchers Alex Wood (1-0, 3.00 ERA — Wednesday’s starter) and Shelby Miller (3-0, 2.05 ERA) have superbly kept the top of the rotation intact, while Teheran works through his mini-malaise. And it’s only a matter of time before Teheran finds his regular groove — in the form of 15 wins, a sub-3.00 ERA and 175-plus strikeouts.

Oh, how a month can change a person’s stance.

In late March, whenever discussing the catching competition between Pierzynski and Christian Bethancourt, I had a default response that heavily favored the touted rookie (a top-5 prospect in Atlanta’s suddenly deep farm system).

As in, I don’t care if Bethancourt goes 0-for-April. He still better be in the starting lineup on May 1.

Fast forward to April 28: With Pierzynski (four hits vs. Washington) batting a scalding-hot .439 (along with an otherworldly .458 on-base percentage), the Braves have no other recourse than to start Pierzynski four, five, maybe six times a week … until there’s no more juice in that container.