Three Cuts: Braves break through in intense night in D.C.
Ejections. An offensive eruption. Warnings (strangely) issued to both benches.
It was an eventful series finale to say the least as the Braves rallied to top the Nationals and trim the magic number to clinch the National League East to two games. It also kept Atlanta up one game in the bid for the top seed in the postseason and increased the unlikelihood that Washington won't be joining them in October.
Next up, Atlanta's last regular-season road trip against the Cubs, losers of 10 of their last 17 and four of five. Will the Braves be popping the champagne in Wrigley Field?
Before we totally turn our attention to Chicago, here are three thoughts from the Braves' 5-2 win.
We had entered broken-record territory with manager Fredi Gonzalez, who all too often of late had been saying some variation of "we need to get back to swinging the bats and scoring some runs."
The Braves entered Wednesday hitting .221 in September, including .208 in the first two games against the Nats. They had scored two or fewer runs in eight of 16 games this month and were shut out in two of the last three.
Through five innings it looked like more of the same as the Braves had one hit -- a single from Justin Upton -- against Ross Ohlendorf. But Atlanta got the emotional spark it needed, courtesy of umpire CB Bucknor.
With the bases loaded in the fifth, Alex Wood had a 3-2 count on Jason Werth and his eight pitch of the at-bat, a 92-mph four-seam fastball, ran inside. Bucknor called the borderline pitch a ball, giving the Nationals a 1-0 lead.
An irate Gonzalez argued the call and was ejected and Wood had some choice words for Bucknork, pointing at the umpire. The pitcher would stay in the game to give up an RBI to Bryce Harper on a sacrifice fly before being lifted for Kameron Loe. On his way to the dugout Wood pointed at Bucknor, continuing to voice his displeasure. He too was ejected.
*Two innings later, Dan Uggla would strikeout on a pitch from Craig Stammen that the FOXTRAX pitching placement monitor would show as the same location as Wood's final throw.
*When was the last time anyone can remember a pitcher being ejected AFTER he was already pulled from the game?
It all seemed to be the lift the Braves needed as Uggla led off the sixth inning with a home run, his his first extra-base hit since July 30 and his first HR since July 25. Four batters and a Jordan Schafer single he would turn into a trip to third base off a throwing error later, Justin Upton followed with his 26th homer and a 3-2 lead.
The surge continued as Brian McCann laced an RBI double off the wall in right-center in the seventh and Schafer added a run with a single in the ninth.
In all, Atlanta finished with seven hits after the Bucknor-supplied motivation.
While Washington took the series 2-1 and claimed three of the last five meetings, Atlanta has been in control of the rivalry the entire season, sweeping their first series in April in D.C. and taking seven of their 10 first-half meetings.
But Wednesday's final meeting between the two took it to a whole other level, one that the Braves matched just once during their run of 14 consecutive division titles from 1991-2005.
Atlanta claimed the series 13-6, and with the Nats having already secured second-place in the East, its the most wins that the Braves have had over the No. 2 team in their division since 2002.
The team that finished behind Atlanta that year? The Expos, who three years later would move to Washington and become the Nationals.
After two September starts in which he had a 14.14 ERA and went seven combined innings with 11 earned runs, the Braves opted to skip Wood's last start to give the 22-year-old rookie a break.
Wood opened looking much more like the pitcher who had a 0.90 ERA in five August outings, scattering five hits over four innings before the fifth-inning.
The one good thing for Wood in that final inning was that both runs charged to Wood was unearned as he went 4 2/3 innings, allowing six hits with two walks and three strikeouts.
His exit aside, this was a positive sign for Wood that he's responding to the extra rest as his innings load -- which is now up to 75 innings, 48 2/3 of which have come since Aug. 4 -- continues to increase.
It's not going to help the Braves in the postseason, but a search of Twitter in the moments after Wood's ejection did show he upped his Q Score exponentially. So there's that too.