USA TODAY Sports
Washington Nationals' right-hander Dan Haren was better against Atlanta tonight than he was last time out against Miami, but the Nats' starter surrendered a must-see blast by the Braves' Justin Upton that ended up being the difference-maker in tonight's 4-3 win in Champion Stadium at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in the Disney World Resort.
Tim Hudson got the first out tonight throwing a two-strike fastball inside to Denard Span that broke back into the zone for a called strike three on the Washington Nationals' leadoff man and center fielder. Two quick outs later the 37-year-old starter in his 15th MLB season was through the first inning of his sixth Grapefruit League start. Dan Haren gave up a line drive single to left by Atlanta Braves' shortstop Andrelton Simmons in the first at bat of the home half of the first. One out later, the Nats' right-hander got the inning-ending DP grounder he wanted off Jason Heyward's bat, but Danny Espinosa bobbled it and by the time the second baseman recovered the ball both runners were safe and there two men on for Justin Upton. A swinging K and caught stealing at third got Haren the double play he wanted, however, and the first inning of the Nationals' starter's fifth start was over.
Adam LaRoche hit a one-out single off Tim Hudson in the second and laughed with the right-hander when they passed at first after Hudson had thrown the former Brave a 47 mph (speed acc to Twitter) eephus earlier in the at bat. LaRoche took second with two down when Braves' catcher Matt Pagnozzi failed to block a breaking ball in the dirt, but the Nationals' speed-challenged first baseman got waved around by third base coach Trent Jewett and got thrown out at home trying to score on Jason Heyward's arm on a two-out single to right by Danny Espinosa.
0-0 after one and a half.
Juan Francisco hit a long single to center that Denard Span quickly tracked down and cut off in front of the track, holding the Braves' infielder at first. ATL 1B Chris Johnson doubled to left in the next at bat sending Francisco around to third, and Tyler Pastornicky doubled them both in with a two-run, two base hit in the at bat after that. Three straight hits, 2-0 Braves. Two outs later, Reed Johnson singled to right to bring Pastornicky home and the Braves took a 3-0 lead on Haren, who struck Jason Heyward out to end the second.
Haren got lucky at the plate in the third, bouncing a high chopper over Tyler Pastornicky at second for a one-out single. Andrelton Simmons dove for a sharp grounder off Denard Span's bat that just missed second base ump Laz Diaz's legs. Simmons managed to knock the ball down even with the screen and he tossed to second in time for the force on the Nats' pitcher. Tim Hudson took care of out no.3, picking off Span, who appeared safe, but was certainly caught off-balance. Out no.3, 3-0 Braves after two and a half. Dan Haren collected two more Ks for five total in 3.0 IP, throwing a quick, 1-2-3 bottom of the third vs Atlanta.
Bryce Harper was 1-2 today and 21-52 so far this Spring after taking a first-pitch fastball from Hudson to left for a one-out single in the fourth, but two outs later Harper was stranded on the basepaths at the end of the Braves' right-hander's fourth scoreless inning of work. Dan Haren retired the Braves in order in the fourth, setting the the fifth, sixth and seventh batters in a row down after Reed Johnson's RBI single in the second made it 3-0 Atlanta. Ian Desmond went the other way with a high fastball for a leadoff single and the Nationals' fifth hit off Hudson in the top of the fifth inning. Danny Espinosa hit into a 4-6-3 DP in the next AB, however, and Wilson Ramos grounded out to short to end Hudson's fifth scoreless frame.
Dan Haren had set 10 in a row down after he retired the Braves in order in the bottom of the fifth.
Jayson Werth delayed the completion of Tim Hudson's sixth scoreless momentarily with a two-out line drive to right that Jason Heyward came close to catching, but trapped. Bryce Harper K'd swinging in the next at bat though, and Hudson and the Braves were up 3-0 after five and a half. Haren had his streak of retired batters ended by Atlanta's Justin Upton, who hit a home run that sailed out over the scoreboard in center. 400 ft to the wall + 40-50 ft high. Lord. Monster homer for Upton. 4-0 Braves.
• Watch Upton's Massive HR off Haren HERE.
Chris Johnson and Tyler Pastornicky hit back-to-back singles off Haren for the Braves' seventh and eighth hits of the night, and the Nats' right-hander was lifted with two on and one out. Craig Stammen came on for the Nats and got the final two outs of the sixth. 4-0 Atlanta.
Haren's line: 5.1 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 5 Ks, 88 pitches.
Ryan Zimmerman singled off Braves' lefty Luis Avilan to start the seventh with his first hit in three at bats tonight. 12 for 33 for Zim this Spring. A HBP on LaRoche moved Zimmerman to second, and the Nats' third baseman scored from there when Ian Desmond doubled to right-center to get the Nats on the board. 2 for 3 today for Desmond. 14 for 49 this Spring. A Danny Espinosa single brought LaRoche in and a DP grounder off Wilson Ramos' bat scored Desmond. 4-3 Braves after six and a half in Champion Stadium at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in the Disney World Resort. Craig Stammen gave up a one-out single by Reed Johnson, but a double play grounder off Jason Heyward's bat ended the seventh. Still 4-3 Atlanta.
Braves' right-hander Cory Gearrin gave up a two-out single by Chad Tracy in a scoreless top of the eighth. Drew Storen got Justin Upton looking for the first out of Atlanta's eighth, but 24-year-old Braves' prospect Joe Terdaslovich doubled to right-center in the next at bat, drilling a low fastball from Storen out to Nats' center fielder Roger Bernadina. Two outs later Terdaslovich was stranded, however, and the Nationals came up in the ninth trailing by one.
Braves' right-hander Anthony Varvaro took over on the mound for Atlanta in the ninth. Destin Hood hit a one-out single back up the middle for his second hit this Spring, then moved to second on a Wilson Ramos groundout, but he was stranded there when Micah Owings K'd swinging to end the game. 4-3 Braves final.