• Turner Field Finale Top 5:
5. Quick Recap: The Washington Nationals avoided a sweep at the hands of the Atlanta Braves with a 2-1 win last Sunday in Nationals Park, but it didn't look good for the Nats early in the finale of their second series with the defending NL East champs this afternoon in Turner Field. Freddie Freeman drove in a run with a sac fly and Justin Upton hit a two-run home run to center off Gio Gonzalez as the Braves jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the first.
The Braves put another three runs up on the board in the second with Tyler Pastornicky tripling to start the inning and scoring on an RBI double by Jason Heyward. Freddie Freeman stepped in next and launched a two-run home run to right that made it 6-0 Braves after two.
Kevin Frandsen was 2 for 2 today after a leadoff double in the fifth, and he took third on a Danny Espinosa bunt before scoring on an RBI groundout by Jose Lobaton that made it 6-1 Braves after four and a half.
Jason Heyward reached on an error in the ninth, stole second and scored on an RBI double by Freddie Freeman, which made it 7-1 Braves in the eighth in Atlanta. After Freeman's double, Justin Upton walked and Andrelton Simmons took Ross Detwiler deep for a three-run blast and a 10-1 lead.
Adam LaRoche homered to start the ninth, taking Gus Schlosser deep to left-center for his third home run of the year, but that's as close as the Nationals would get today. 10-2 game.
That's how it ended. 10-2 final. The Nats get swept in their three-game set in Turner Field. Next stop, Miami.
4. Support Your Gio: Gio Gonzalez, 28, never faced Atlanta before joining Washington in a trade from Oakland in the winter of 2011-12, and after winning two of his first three starts against the Nationals' NL East rivals, he hasn't beaten the Braves in his last six outings against them, going (0-5) with a 4.89 ERA in that winless stretch, over which he's received one run or less of support in each of the six starts.
In spite of the fact that Gonzalez has held the Braves to a .237/.336/.368 line so far in his career, he hasn't been able to beat them since July 1, 2012 in Turner Field.
The Nationals fell behind early again this afternoon in the series finale in Turner Field with Jason Heyward walking in the first at bat of the Braves' first then taking third when the Nationals misplayed a bunt by B.J. Upton, resulting in runners on second and third with one down and Freddie Freeman at the plate. In 2013, Atlanta's first baseman put up a gaudy .443/.541/.695 line with runners in scoring position and he came through with a sac fly line drive to right in his first at bat this afternoon, making it 1-0 Braves early in Atlanta.
Justin Upton stepped in next with a runner on third and one down and hit a 1-0 change to deep center field and over Bryce Harper and the center field wall for a two-run blast and a 3-0 Braves' lead. Andrelton Simmons tripled in the at bat that followed, but he was stranded at third at the end of a 26-pitch opening frame by the Nationals' lefty.
Braves' second baseman Tyler Pastornicky hit Gonzalez's 28th pitch, an 0-1 fastball, into the right field corner and legged out a leadoff triple in the first at bat of the bottom of the second inning after ATL right-hander Aaron Harang completed his second scoreless frame against the Nationals. One out later, an RBI double to right by Jason Heyward drove Pastornicky in for the fourth run of the game, 4-0. Heyward took third on a groundout to second by B.J. Upton which brought Freddie Freeman to the plate with another RISP, and his towering two-run home run to right stayed fair and made it 6-0 Braves after two. Upper deck shot, six-run lead. 17-pitch second, 43 pitches overall after two innings.
A 14-pitch, 1-2-3 third by Gio Gonzalez settled things down, but he was up to 54 pitches after three and still down 6-0 to the Braves.
B.J. Upton singled with two down in the fourth, taking a first-pitch change to center. Freddie Freeman stepped in with another runner in scoring position, but got a one-pitch walk on a fastball inside that hit him in the hand. Both runners were stranded, however, when Gonzalez completed a 13-pitch fourth that left him 67 overall after four. Still 6-0 Braves.
Gerald Laird walked with one down, and a single by Ramiro Pena and walk to Tyler Pastornicky loaded the bases with one out in the Braves' fifth with Gio Gonzalez up to 85 pitches overall on the day. Braves' starter Aaron Harang failed to take advantage of a DIY opportunity in the next at bat, striking out on a foul tip, and a fly to center by Jason Heyward ended a 24-pitch inning that left Gonzalez at 91 overall after five.
Gio Gonzalez got the first two outs of the sixth with two pitches on flies to right and left by B.J. Upton and Freddie Freeman, respectively. Justin Upton battled Gonzalez in a long at bat that ended in a two-out walk, but Andrelton Simmons' groundout ended the sixth. 12-pitch inning for Gonzalez, 103 overall after six.
Gio Gonzalez's line: 6.0 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 4 BB, 6 Ks, 2 HR, 103 P, 69 S, 3/6 GO/FO.
3. #DontRunHarpRun?: Bryce Harper singled with two down in the third, but with Jayson Werth at the plate, the Nats' 21-year-old outfielder was caught trying to take second on a pitch in the dirt by Aaron Harang. Braves' catcher Gerald Laird threw him out at second. It was a ruled an out at second, not a caught stealing.
The Nationals' third-year outfielder is 0 for 2 on stolen base attempts so far in 2014 and 29 for 41 early in his major league career. Matt Williams said this winter and spring that he wanted Harper to be able to make better use of his running game, but it's one part of the 2010 no.1 overall pick's game that does needs some work.
But still the time he stole home on Cole Hamels was awesome.
(ed. note - "Originally ruled a CS, the scoring was changed as noted in responses I got when I tweeted that Harper was 0 for 3 in SB attempts this season. It was a much better point to note when it was a CS, but Harper is still making some mistakes on the basepaths early.")
Harper was 2 for 2 today vs Aaron Harang after doubling off the base of the right field wall to start the Nats' sixth, but he was stranded at second three outs later in what was still a 6-1 game.
2. Can't Get Freeman Out: Braves' first baseman Freddie Freeman may have ruffled the feathers of the jinx-averse and the baseball gods (if they exist, I'm a baseball atheist) when he told Chipper Jones last week that opposing pitchers have "nothin' to get me out with," as reporters including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's David O'Brien reported last week:
Chipper said Freeman came by his house after game last night talked hitting for hour. Oozing confidence "they got nothin to get me out with"
— David O'Brien (@ajcbraves) April 10, 2014
The Nationals would have a hard time arguing with Freeman's assessment, however. After homering in his second at bat this afternoon, the left-handed, power-hitting first baseman was hitting .439 on the year with 10 hits in 20 at bats against the Nats so far this year over which he'd hit two doubles and two home runs while collecting four RBIs.
Entering today's game, five years into his major league career, Freeman's .299/.359/.455 line against the Nationals was pretty impressive. When he stepped in for the time in today's game, Gio Gonzalez drilled him in the hand. Uh-oh.
Freeman stayed in the game and drove in his fourth run in the bottom of the eighth, making it a 7-1 Braves' lead with an RBI double. After going 2 for 3 today, he ended the game with a .442 AVG on the year.
1. See You In June: With the Braves' 10-1 win this afternoon, they swept the three-game weekend set in Turner Field from the Nationals, improving to 5-1 against Washington this year and 18-7 against their NL East rivals from D.C. over the last year-plus. The Nats and Braves don't play again until June 20th in D.C.
1.a: Debut: Steven Souza, Jr., 24, made his major league debut in the seventh inning of today's game and got his first MLB at bat against Braves' right-hander Jordan Walden in the top of the eighth. Souza worked the count full, but K'd swinging for the first out of the frame.
Nationals now 7-5