The United States Men's National Soccer Team wasn't the only team who left their competitive arena with a bittersweet taste in their mouth following a split. The Atlanta Braves left Nationals Park with a tie of their own, as they split the 4-game series with the Washington Nationals. In all honesty, that's a pretty fair result considering how the two teams went into this series.
In Atlanta's case, they were heading into this series with a couple of runs of form going, one bad and one good. The bad one was the overall run that included a 3-game sweep at the hands of the Philadelphia Phillies, who have since sunk back into last place after their sweep of the Braves lifted them out of the cellar. The other run of form? The fact that the Braves had only lost once to the Nationals over 6 games.
That streak continued for the next two games, as the Braves picked up the first 2 games of the series. The first win was a very bittersweet one and that was because of Gavin Floyd. Floyd's performance on Thursday night was excellent, and it was clearly the best outing that he had all season. He breezed through 6 innings before the fateful 7th inning, which is when he fractured his elbow on the first pitch of the inning. There's no timetable on a return yet, but the chances are good that the pitch that Jayson Werth fouled off just might end up being the last pitch that Gavin Floyd throws as an Atlanta Brave. Hopefully he can recover, because this was an absolutely awful moment.
While Gavin Floyd was the man of the hour for Thursday's win, Evan Gattis' 19th game of a 20-game hit streak was the focus when the smoke cleared from Friday night's 13-inning affair. The game went 13 because Craig Kimbrel failed to nail down his 2nd save opportunity of the series. I still can't believe that he walked Nate McLouth to start all of that. Jeez.
Anyways, it wasn't all bad news for the bullpen on Friday night, because Ryan Buchter and Juan Jaime both made their debuts in the extra frames and both did well in their debuts as well. Walden ended up getting the save after the Braves' offense broke the deadlock in the top of the 13th, as a RBI from El Oso Blanco put Atlanta ahead for good in that one.
That's when the fountain of runs for Atlanta was plugged up by Washington's pitching staff, as the Braves would only score 1 run over the next 18 innings. The first 9 of those 18 innings included 0 runs, as Doug Fister completely locked up the Braves and their bats over 8 innings, and Rafael Soriano earned his first save of the series with no problem.
The big story for the Braves in this one was the fact that during this loss, Julio Teheran had some communication issues with Evan Gattis, and these issues culminated with Teheran committing the first balk of 2014 for Atlanta. That balk eventually led to a run. The Braves didn't score any for themselves, so that may as well have been the game right there.
Meanwhile, the next 9 innings on Sunday would be when the Braves got their 1 run, and they did so thanks to a hit from Justin Upton. That run was scored on Tanner Roark, and it coincided with his exit from the game. That was when the Nats' bullpen entered and overwhelmed the Braves.
The main antagonist for the Braves this weekend was Anthony Rendon. Over the final 3 games of the series, Rendon had 5 hits, 3 of which were of the extra-base variety. 2 of those were a double, and 1 was a homer. He's been the best player for the Nationals in the absence of Bryce Harper, and he certainly lived up to that billing as he tormented the Braves over this weekend.
So, the Braves weren't able to hold on to 1st place despite grabbing it for a few fleeting hours, but they also didn't lose any ground on the 1st place Nationals. In the long run, this will be looked at the start of what will hopefully be a productive road trip that continues with a trip to Houston to see the Astros for 3 games tomorrow. But as far as the short-term is concerned, this series felt like a good dish of food that didn't exactly come out right; The first bite was awesome, until the aftertaste kicked in.