The Washington Nationals avoided being swept by the Atlanta Braves despite missing two of their biggest bats in the lineup on Sunday afternoon in their 2-1 win over the defending NL East champions. Jerry Blevins picked up the win in relief and Rafael Soriano picked up his first save of the season by striking out Jason Heyward to end the game with two runners left aboard.
Before the game it appeared as if the Braves may have had the upper hand with first year Nationals manager Matt Williams benching Bryce Harper due to performance reasons, as he has started the season 3-for-21 with 10 strikeouts, and kept Ryan Zimmerman out with a sore shoulder. However, Zimmerman did appear late in the game and struck out against Gus Schlosser to begin the eighth inning.
However, the Nationals (4-2) only needed four hits to come out on top. The loss for the Braves (4-2) gives them a 19-7 record in their past 26 games against the team formerly known as the Montreal Expos.
Washington plated a run in the first inning as they were helped by an error by Dan Uggla who cut-off Andrelton Simmons to field a grounder up the middle and made an errant throw to first that plated Anthony Rendon who hit leadoff for the first time this season and started at third base. The 23-year old has led the Nationals offense this season so far with a .391 batting average and has driven in five runs.
Uggla drove in the only run on the afternoon for the Braves in the sixth inning when he just missed a three-run home run when he drove a pitch from Taylor Jordan to the center field warning track to score Freddie Freeman who tagged up from third base to tied the game at 1-1.
Chris Johnson extended his hit streak to six games to begin the season with a double in the sixth inning.
After the first inning the Braves second-year southpaw only gave up two more hits, but the last one he gave up turned out to be the deciding factor of the game, as Ian Desmond took him deep on the first pitch of the seventh inning that he left to much over the plate in the flashy shortstops wheelhouse.
Wood looks to be a huge piece to the Braves rotation after carrying over the success he had in Spring Training. He has now pitched 14 innings in two starts to begin the 2014 campaign and has allowed three earned runs. His 1.93 ERA is impressive as is his 0.86 WHIP.
Tyler Clippard, who has been known for tanking against the Braves, delivered a fine outing and retired the last two hitters in the eighth inning.
In the ninth inning Rafael Soriano worked out of trouble after letting Andrelton Simmons and Ryan Doumit reach base with two-out singles in the 9th inning before he struck out Heyward with a 92-mph cutter for the games final out. Heyward had reported stiffness in his neck before the game, but played through the pain and is now hitless in his last 17 at-bats to bring his average to .130 on the season.
The Braves will next return home to take on the New York Mets at Turner Field on Tuesday night in their home opener. Aaron Harang (1-0, 0.00 ERA) will take to the mound and look to give a large turnout at the Ted something to cheer about.
So far this season Atlanta's pitching staff has been dominant and they now have posted a 1.63 ERA from their starters through 38.2 innings on the young season.