Nine In a Row: Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals Series Recap

Rob Carr

The Braves waltzed into D.C. and swept the Nationals in their home ballpark, extending their winning streak to nine games and improving their overall record to 11-1.

Many considered the Braves winning just one of three to be ideal coming into this series facing Ross Detwiler, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez. When all the dust settled at the end, the Braves had swept the Nationals in their own ballpark and had extended their winning streak to nine games. The sweep of the Nats in D.C. was only the second since the Expos became the Nationals in 2005.

Atlanta won each game a different way: a comeback (Friday), a pitcher's duel (Saturday), and a blowout (Sunday). The Braves outscored the Nats 18-5 in the series, four of those five Nats runs scored in the first two innings of the first game of the series.

Bryce Harper homered in his first at-bat of the series, but went cold the rest of the way; it was his only hit of the series (1-10, four strikeouts), and his batting average dropped to a more pedestrian .348. He was outhit by none other than Tim Hudson, who had two hits in his start Saturday in addition to holding the Nats to a single run in seven innings.

Julio Teheran struggled for the second straight start, giving up four runs in the first two innings, but recovered to finish strong. Hopefully, he'll carry that improvement into his next start.

The pitching star of the series, though, was Paul Maholm. He threw 7.2 scoreless innings Sunday and became the first Braves pitcher since 1916 to begin the season with three scoreless starts. All we have to say is, thank you Ryan Dempster.

B.J. Upton entered the series just 3 for 29, but had four hits in the series, three in the finale to raise his average to .163 and scored a pair of runs. Jason Heyward had plenty of good swings in the series, but with only two hits to show for hit. Still, B.J. and Heyward appeared to be on the verge of breaking out of their early season slump. Sunday's 9-0 win is an example of what this lineup is capable of when everyone is hitting the way they should.

The hittin' fool of the series, though, was Chris Johnson. He smacked eight hits in the three games and had three RBI, hitting his first home run of the season Friday off Detwiler, who was actually the most effective starter for the Nationals in this series. Johnson is now hitting .405.

Johnson was one of five different Braves to homer in the series along with Evan Gattis, Justin Upton, Andrelton Simmons and...Ramiro Pena. Yes, that Ramiro Pena, the one that had just two home runs in his previous 351 plate appearances. Pena was the hero of Friday's win, capping a come-from-behind victory with a two-run homer in the tenth inning.

The home run by Evan Gattis came right after Ryan Zimmerman's throwing error with two outs in the third inning Saturday. Gattis leveled off on a shoulder-high fastball and smoked it for his fourth homer of the season. Zimmerman's contributed to Atlanta's ninth-inning rally on Friday with another wide throw on a ground ball. He tried to force Jason Heyward at second base, but instead threw the ball into right field, allowing the tying runs to score. One has to wonder how long the Nats will stick with Zimmerman at third base.

Atlanta's bullpen: 7.1 innings, 2 hits, 0 runs, 1 walk
Washington's bullpen: 10 innings, 13 hits, 8 runs, 10 walks

People can interpret the comments by Strasburg and Danny Espinosa any way they want, but the fact remains that the Nationals simply got beat.

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