Atlanta Braves' leadoff man B.J. Upton tore into a 91 mph two-seamer from Washington Nationals' lefty Gio Gonzalez and lined the first pitch of today's game to left for a double that Washington Nationals' outfielder Bryce Harper retrieved from the warning track. The elder Upton advanced to third on a pop to right field by Jason Heyward and B.J.'s younger brother Justin walked to put runners on the corners with one down and hard-hitting catcher Evan Gattis due up. Gattis, 26, whose home run helped the Braves to a 2-1 win over the Nats on Saturday, doubled in the first run of today's game with an RBI two-base hit off the left field wall that brought B.J. in and moved Justin Upton around to third. Gio Gonzalez got a check-swing strike three from Dan Uggla for out no.2, but a two-out, two-run single to center by Braves' first baseman Chris Johnson made it a 3-0 game after a half-inning in Nationals Park. 28-pitch first for Gio.
Over 73 plate appearances before today's game the Nationals, as a team, had a .227/.301/.379 line against left-handers. Braves' lefty Paul Maholm made quick work of the Nats in the bottom of the first today, giving up a one-out walk to Jayson Werth but nothing else in a quick, 14-pitch frame. 3-0 Atlanta after one.
Gio Gonzalez needed just 13 pitches to retire the Braves in order in the top of the second, but he was up to 41 pitches after just 2.0 IP. Paul Maholm hit Danny Espinosa* with two down in the Nats' half of the frame and gave up a two-out single by Kurt Suzuki, but a weak grounder to third by Gio Gonzalez ended the Braves' lefty's second scoreless inning of work.
Justin Upton was 1 for 2 today after he took a 2-2 curve from Gio Gonzalez out the other way and over the out-of-town scoreboard for a solo home run and a 4-0 Braves' lead in the third. Upton's 7th of 2013. Dan Uggla took the fourth walk of the game by Gonzalez one out later. Chris Johnson lined a single to center for the second time today to put two on with one out and Andrelton Simmons up, and Simmons' first home run went out to left on a 92 mph full-count fastball from the Nationals' left-hander. 7-0 Braves. Ryan Zimmerman committed his third error of the year in the next at bat, fielding a slow roller from Ramiro Pena and throwing wide of first, but he started a 5-4-3 inning-ending DP after fielding a grounder from Maholm in the next at bat. 7-0 Braves after two and a half. A 33-pitch 3rd has Gio Gonzalez at 74 pitches after three.
Paul Maholm retired the Nationals in order in the bottom of the third, leaving him at 40 pitches after 3.0 scoreless. Gio Gonzalez came back out for the fourth and threw a 10-pitch, 1-2-3 frame that had him at 84 pitches overall after 4.0 IP. Still 7-0 Braves. Adam LaRoche took a 2-2 fastball from Maholm for a ride to deep left, but Justin Upton caught the second out of the Nationals' fourth on the warning track and Ian Desmond K'd swinging to end the fourth scoreless frame by the Braves' left-hander. 53 pitches overall and just one hit allowed through 4.0 IP.
Chris Johnson was 3 for 3 today after a two-out single to right with two down in the fifth, but he was stranded at first when Gio Gonzalez completed a scoreless 14-pitch fifth that had the Nats' lefty at 98 pitches overall after 5.0 innings. Steve Lombardozzi, who replaced Danny Espinosa (who was hit by a pitch in the hand/wrist*) singled to start the Nationals' fifth, collecting just the second hit of the day off Paul Maholm. The Braves' lefty got Kurt Suzuki looking for the first out of the inning, however, and retired Tyler Moore and Denard Span in the next two at bats to complete his fifth scoreless frame.
• Gio Gonzalez's Line: 5.0 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 3 BB, 3 Ks, 2 HR, 98 P, 58 S, 7/2 GO/FO
Zach Duke replaced Gio Gonzalez in the top of the fifth and gave up back-to-back-to-back one-out hits by Maholm, Upton and Heyward with Heyward's an RBI line drive to right that made it 8-0 Braves. An intentional walk to Justin Upton loaded the bases in front of Evan Gattis, whose fly to right brought B.J. Upton home to make it a 9-0 game after five and a half in D.C. Maholm returned to the mound after running the bases and retired the Nationals in order in a 14-pitch, 1-2-3 bottom of the sixth. 86 pitches overall for the Braves' left hander.
Braves' first baseman Chris Johnson was 4 for 4 today after he singled to start the seventh, but he was forced out on a grounder to third by Andrelton Simmons and Nats' lefty Zach Duke retired the next two batters in order to complete a scoreless top of the frame. It took Paul Maholm just 10 pitches to retire the Nationals in order in the bottom of the seventh, and the left-hander was at 96 overall (two short of Gio's pitch total) after seven scoreless frames.
B.J Upton doubled off the left field wall for the Braves' 12th hit in the top of the eighth. One out later, his brother Justin reached on an error by Steve Lombardozzi at second, but Lombo was the middle man in an inning-ending 5-4-3 off of Evan Gattis' bat. Still 9-0 Braves in the eighth. The Nationals got one and two-out singles from Kurt Suzuki and Chad Tracy in the bottom of the eighth, ending Paul Maholm's after he got Roger Bernadina looking for the second out of the inning. Left-handed reliever Luis Avilan walked Bryce Harper to load the bases. Ryan Zimmerman worked the count full, but his fourth groundout of the day (in 4 ABs) ended the eighth.
Henry "Lightning" Rodriguez gave up back-to-back two-out walks to Andrelton Simmons and Ramiro Pena in the top of the ninth, but Tyler Moore caught a line drive off Blake DeWitt's bat to end a 22-pitch inning by the Nats' right-handed reliever. Cory Gearrin came on for Atlanta in the ninth and retired the Nats in order. Ballgame.
Braves win, 9-0, sweep three-game set with the Nats.
Nationals now 7-5.
[ed. note - " * = The Nats provided the following update on Danny Espinosa later in the game after he was lifted in favor of Steve Lombardozzi."]:
"Sore right hand" forces #Nats' Danny Espinosa from the game according to #Nats' announcement. Was HBP by #Braves Paul Maholm.— federalbaseball (@federalbaseball) April 14, 2013