The team the Braves chased for the better part of the 2012 season has become a welcome sight in 2013, and that’s even with ace Stephen Strasburg pitching.
Braves rookie Julio Teheran matched Strasburg, holding the Nationals to two runs, and the Braves offense eventually scratched out a go-ahead run, good for a 3-2 win and the end of their four-game losing streak.
The Braves (16-9) won for the first time this season without the benefit of a home run, and they won for the fourth time in four games against the Nationals this season, including a three-game sweep in Washington April 12-14.
“It’s nice to get it done no matter how we do it,” said Andrelton Simmons who drove in the winning run on a sacrifice fly and threw out a runner in the ninth inning from his derriere. “If we strike out 20 times and get a win, we don’t care. We’re going to be happy.”
Anything to warm up from a miserable three-city trip, through snow, rain and seven losses in 10 games. The Braves were welcomed home by 72 degrees at first pitch and 22,870 fans at Turner Field, including former third baseman Chipper Jones who took it all in from his SunTrust seats behind home plate.
“It was a (cruddy) end to a (cruddy) road trip but that’s baseball,” Dan Uggla said of the Braves recent road woes. “You’ve got to come back the next day and bounce back regardless of what time you get in, regardless of how bad you got beat the day before, or the day before that. It was definitely nice to come out, kind of refreshed and be at home and get a win tonight.”
Jordan Schafer walked off with the dirtiest uniform and rightly so. He reached base in all four plate appearances, drew three walks, stole two bases, scored a run and collected the big hit in the seventh inning. Schafer’s single put runners first and third for Simmons who lined out to right field to drive in the winning run from third off reliever Tyler Clippard.
Schafer accounted for three of the four walks in six innings charged to Strasburg, who was examined after the game for right forearm tightness, Nationals manager Davey Johnson told reporters. Johnson said it was too early to tell if Strasburg will have to miss his next start.
Strasburg gave up a run each in the first and fourth innings but also stranded five runners and got the benefit of a controversial call on a pickoff play at first base to get Freddie Freeman in the first inning.
“We’ve had some good approaches against him always in the last two or three years and maybe it’s just a byproduct that we see him six times a year and guys get to know him a little bit,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He was good…We had a good approach, but we still only scored two runs off of him.”
Teheran stayed right with Strasburg, giving up two runs in 5 1/3 innings despite allowing 10 hits – nine of which were singles. Teheran also doubled off Strasburg to make him 4-for-9 on the season at the plate, with his first career extra-base hit.
“He’s a kid that we are watching him grow right in front of our eyes,” Gonzalez said. “I said that last year with (Mike) Minor and two years ago it was (Brandon) Beachy.”
The Braves won for the fifth time in five Teheran starts this season, in large part because of the work of Jordan Walden, Eric O’Flaherty, and Craig Kimbrel, who retired the final 11 batters. Walden picked up the win after stranding two of Teheran’s runners in the sixth on his way to 1 2/3 innings of scoreless work.
“I thought our bullpen was the key to the game,” Gonzalez said.
Uggla went 2-for-4, including two hits off Strasburg to make him 11-for-23 (.478) against him for his career. His second single set up Gerald Laird to tie the game 2-2 in the fourth inning on an RBI single.
“Who knows?” said Uggla, when asked about his success against Strasburg. “Because he gets nasty on me and makes me look as dumb as anybody can. For whatever reason when I make contact with him sometimes it finds a hole.”