Another home game against the Atlanta Braves, another close loss. The Nats entered this series off a sweep, and the Braves came from being swept, but some things never change.
Gavin Floyd locked up the Washington Nationals (37-34), allowing no runs on two hits in six innings, as two fourth-inning runs were more than enough for the Braves (37-35), who improved their record against the Nats to 6-1 on the year with a 3-0 win.
All night long, the Nationals flailed against Floyd (W, 2-2). His offspeed pitches had hitters guessing, and his final line was impressive: six innings, two hits, no runs, one walk, six strikeouts.
“The curveball was the difference,” said Manager Matt Williams, praising Floyd after his dominance.
He would certainly have gone further, as he finished the sixth with just 63 pitches, but he exited the game with a trainer after delivering just one pitch in the seventh. Floyd returned from Tommy John surgery just a month ago, so to see him exit with an injury is certainly scary. After the game, news broke that Floyd fractured his elbow and is likely out for the season.
From the opposite dugout, Jordan Zimmermann (L, 5-4) acquitted himself well, but could not have possibly done enough given the lack of offense. He gave up two runs on seven hits in seven innings, striking out six and walking one. Even when the Braves did damage, it was not because Zimmermann was being knocked around. Three straight singles loaded the bases with one out in the fourth, and a grounder up the middle was just out of the reach of Danny Espinosa, driving in both runs.
“It’s a ball that squeaked through the infield. Not much you can do about it,” Williams said of the RBI hit. He said Zimmermann was “good,” despite the two runs he gave up.
Both teams had opportunities against the opposing bullpen, but only the Braves cashed in. Jayson Werth led off the seventh with a double for the Nats, but three straight grounders to short left him there. Meanwhile, the Braves managed three hits off of Jerry Blevins to bring home a run, and Aaron Barrett had to be called upon to get the inning’s third out and escape the jam.
Surprisingly, Blevins now owns a 4.32 ERA, his worst mark since 2009 with the Oakland Athletics. The second-biggest pickup of the offseason for the Nats, Blevins has been somewhat of a disappointment through the first few months of his tenure in DC.
After a scoreless ninth from Craig Stammen, Atlanta’s ninth-inning executioner Craig Kimbrel handled the Nats with relative ease and earned his 21st save, good for second-best in baseball.
Even with Floyd’s early departure, the Nats finished the game with just three hits, while the Braves posted 11. The hitters looked like they did against Tim Hudson and in the St. Louis Cardinals series: totally lost at the plate.
However, despite the Nats’ recent results against Atlanta, Williams was unconvinced that the Braves held any sort of advantage over his team.
“I don’t buy into that,” he said. “I think that if we execute, and we do things properly, we’ve got a chance to win every day, regardless of who we play.”
Like Williams, I am certainly not one to buy into this “Braves own the Nats” nonsense, but these outcomes are certainly frustrating. No matter how poorly the Braves play the rest of the year, the Nationals will have a tough time sniffing a divisional title or playoff berth if they can’t consistently win games against their main divisional competition. Since the Braves have no voodoo magic, no one secret that allows them to beat the Nationals, we can only wait and trust that the tide will turn on its own. RBI singles will become GIDPs, warning-track flyouts will become home runs, and so on. But until then, just try to stay levelheaded.