With two outs in the bottom of the second inning Braves’ first basement Freddie Freeman lifted a towering ball off of Gio Gonzalez toward the right field foul pole. On most days, or perhaps against another team this ball would have gone foul, but in this case the wind blew the ball fair for a homer giving the Braves a 6-0 lead.
Freeman’s homer along with myriad errors, injuries, and blown opportunities encapsulates the Washington National’s experience against their rivals in the National League East so far this season. The Braves have beaten the Nats five out of the first six times they have faced them to begin the year. Furthermore the Braves are the only team to defeat the Nats in 2014.
A key to the Braves’ success in this series was their ability to put runs on the board early, and today was no different. In the top of the first, Gio walked Jason Heyward to start the game. Then on an attempted B.J. Upton sacrifice Gio threw the ball away sending Heyward to third and Upton to second. Justin Upton followed his brother with a homer to center giving the Braves a 3-0 lead after one inning.
In the bottom of the second the Braves struck again. Tyler Pastornicky tripled and then Heyward doubled him home. Freeman followed with a homer to right to give the Braves a 6-0 lead and crush the Nationals’ hope of taking one of three games from the Braves in the series.
The Nationals had relatively little success at the plate during the game. In the fifth the team was able to get a little bit of a rally going. First, Kevin Frandsen doubled to center. Then Danny Espinosa bunted a single over the pitchers head (actually) moving Frandsen to third. Jose Lobaton grounded out to second base, but Frandsen was able to score on the play. The Nats second and final run of the game came on a meaningless home run from Adam LaRoche in the top of the ninth inning.
Overall the Nats played a lackluster series again the Braves. The series did longer term damage to the team as well, asRyan Zimmerman will be out four to six weeks with a broken thumb. The bottom line is that if that Nationals want to contend this year they will need to learn how to beat the Braves sooner rather than later.
- Kevin Frandsen has been playing well as a replacement for injured players so far this season. He is hitting .467 on the year and was 2-4 today with a run scored. The Nationals will need him to play well to help replace Zimmerman’s bat while he is on the DL.
- Bryce Harper went two for two today with a pair of walks. Though he is hitting a little better he needs to slow down a little on the field. I love his “hustle always personality,” but today he overran a ball in center field and was thrown out at second base on a pitch in the dirt. It is great when Bryce puts pressure on the other team, but he needs to make sure not to hurt his own team in the process.
- The Nationals won’t return to Atlanta to play the Braves until August. Hopefully that is enough time to figure out how to play there.