On a night where the Nationals decided to go with what was, for all intents and purposes, a B-team lineup and strategy for the game, this seemed like as good of a night as any for the Braves to possibly break their losing streak and get back to .500. Although they went behind early on, a series of fortunate events for Atlanta on one play in the 6th inning ended up being the turning point for the Braves as they finished the season series against Washington with a win.
The first four innings of this contest came and went with little incident, as expected when one team is full of guys who played most of this season in the minors and the other team hasn't had a lead since Saturday. The first big moment of the game came in the 5th inning, which is when Alex Wood made his only mistake of the game. Wood had himself another lovely outing as he made it into the 7th inning and was credited with 6.0 IP, 5 H, 8 Ks, and only 1 walk.
However, just like Harang's lone mistake last night was a whopper of a mistake, the same could have been said for Wood. Steven Souza was at bat, and Wood tossed an 82-mph meatball over the plate. Souza then bombed it over the center field wall for a solo homer. Souza's first career dinger put the Nationals up by 1, and I don't think that any cynics could be blamed for thinking that that this was the beginning of yet another frustrating night for the Braves. Fortunately, Wood kept the Nationals at bay from that point forward, and that was all the damage that the Nationals would deal for the night.
As evidenced by the lineup, it appeared that Matt Williams and the Nationals were completely content with the production (or lack thereof) that they had gotten on the night. They had a chance to pinch hit for rookie starting pitcher Blake Treinen in the top of the 7th, but instead they let him hit for himself and then pulled him for the bottom half of the 6th inning. Needless to say, that's not the type of move that's made in a game that you're actively trying to win.
That bottom half of the 6th ended up being the breakthrough inning for the Braves. Phil Gosselin and Ramiro Pena (who entered the game in the 4th inning after Andrelton Simmons left with ankle issues) each got on base to start the inning against Ross Detwiler. But the excitement soon turned to dread when Freddie Freeman reached on a fielder's choice for the first out then Justin Upton struck out for the second out. Jason Heyward came up with a chance to put some numbers on the board for Atlanta, but he somehow managed to get hit on his left thumb. He managed to stay in the game, and it's a good thing that he did, as you'll see below.
After Heyward took first base after the HBP, it was time for Christian Bethacourt to see if he could pull off a miracle: Actually bringing in a run for the Braves with the bases loaded. Someone's prayer ended up being answered, because the miracle indeed happened and this sequence of events occurred:
- Bethancourt hits a grounder to 1st
- 1st baseman boots it, ball dribbles past 2nd baseman into shallow right field
- Freeman and Gosselin score while Washington's right fielder lackadaisically fields the ball
- Heyward takes advantage of this by speeding his way home. He beats the throw, which goes to the backstop
- Bethancourt eventually makes it safely to 3rd base thanks to an errant throw
For those of you who aren't as enchanted with my description of the events, here's video evidence so that you can gawk at the weird play as many times as you want. Seriously, feel free to rewind it as many times as possible so you can say that you were a witness to the Braves scoring 3 runs on 1 play in September 2014; A truly rare occurrence.
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2 batters into the next frame, David Carpenter was called upon to make sure that the lead was preserved. He got the job done, ensuring that the Braves made it through the 7th inning with no issues. Jordan Walden did the same in the 8th inning, and in the 9th, we finally got to see Craig Kimbrel again. We didn't see a strikeout from Kimbrel tonight, but he still got the 3 important outs with no problem, and the Braves 5-game losing streak came to a close.
They may not have beaten the actual Washington Nationals this week, but hey, a win's a win. With the way this team has been playing as of late, we should be glad that the Braves didn't add yet another embarrassing loss to their tally. Instead, they gave the Nats the heave-ho out of town (though they'll be leaving with a pretty nice parting gift), and finally got back to their winning ways.
It doesn't make up for the sting of watching Washington celebrate their divisional title victory last night, but it's definitely a better night when the Braves pick up a victory.
<iframe src="http://www.fangraphs.com/graphframe.aspx?config=0&static=969976&type=livewins&num=0&h=450&w=450&date=2014-09-17&team=Braves&dh=0" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" height="450" width = "450" style="border:1px solid black;"></iframe><br /><span style="font-size:9pt;">Source: <a href="http://www.fangraphs.com/livewins.aspx?date=2014-09-17&team=Braves&dh=0&season=2014">FanGraphs</a></span>