• "Marvin Hudson botched that one." - Braves announcer Don Sutton.
First base umpire Marvin Hudson didn't make Edwin Jackson throw the 94 mph 1-2 fastball to the Braves' Jason Heyward that the hard-hitting 23-year-old outfielder hit out to right-center to tie yesterday's game. The ump's blown call did ratchet up the tension a bit, however, and it did put Martin Prado on in front of Heyward so that the home run was a two-run blast that allowed Atlanta to tie the game at 4-4 in the bottom of the sixth. By the time Heyward hit his 27th home run of the 2012 campaign, Washington Nationals' manager Davey Johnson had already been tossed from the game. As the Nats' 69-year-old skipper explained it to reporters including MASN's Dan Kolko afterwards, his frustration was more with the fact that the umpire wouldn't ask for help on a play that the Nats' first baseman and manager were sure was called incorrectly:
Davey Johnson: "If I can see it from 150 feet that the throw beats him and he's on the bag and he was out of position, I wanted him to get help. Those are critical points in games. I've got old eyes and I can see that. He's a good umpire. I felt like the object is to just get this right. We don't need to give them a little added momentum here. Get some help."
"'But I knew, even with these old eyes,' the Nats' manager said, "'I knew I was right. I didn't need a replay.'" The only way for Mr. Hudson to have blown the call was for him to have been out of position, the manager thought, so he asked for the umpire to ask for help, but Hudson was unwilling to do so and the stubborn approach (not uncommon amongst umpires) led to the Nationals' skipper's first ejection of the season. Did Hudson notice the slight movement of LaRoche's foot and mistake it for the first baseman stretching back to reconnect with the bag? Did he... Yeah, I don't know how else he could have blown it:
A botched call, a throwing error on a walk-off fielder's choice on Friday night and then a bases-loaded HBP to cap off a bad inning by a normally reliable reliever on Saturday and the Atlanta Braves have taken two of three from the Nationals with a chance to sweep the three-game season-series-ending set tonight in front of a national tv audience on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball.
Coming into the series, Chipper Jones told Atlanta Journal-Constitution writer Carroll Rogers that even though it was the first-place Nats in Turner Field this weekend, it was just another series Atlanta needed to win as they try to get back to the post season in the veteran infielder's final campaign. "'I don’t really see any importance whatsoever other than just trying to win the series,'" Jones told the reporter, other than, "Just trying to get some wins.'" The Braves have won two so far, and they've pulled within 6.5 of the NL East lead while padding their Wild Card lead.
Winning the Wild Card isn't Atlanta's goal, however, as their manager Fredi Gonzalez told reporters after game on Saturday as reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Sweeping the Nationals tonight would mean a lot to the Braves, Gonzalez explained:
"'It’s important because our eyes are still on trying to get the division because the wild card is so hard and so difficult with the one-game playoff. But at the very least if we don’t catch them because they’ve got a good club, you could hang your hat, and say, we may meet them after the first round, the play-in playoff game. If it ends right now, we’d play them. and it’s always good to play good with your opponent the last time you’ve seen them.'"
The Washington Nationals and 19-game winner Gio Gonzalez have a chance to send a message back to the Braves tonight when they meet in the series finale in Turner Field. After dropping the first two games in Turner Field this weekend, the Nationals hold a 10-7 lead in the season series with their NL East rivals, though the Braves have won three-straight from the Nats. Can Gio Gonzalez help Washington stop the losing streak vs Atlanta?