Braves break streak, finally use duplicate lineup

WASHINGTON – And in the 31st game, the Braves finally used a lineup they had used before.

They were the only team left in the majors that had used a different lineup in every game this season, sans the pitching spot in the order. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez finally used a duplicate in Sunday’s series finale against the Nationals, when he wrote out the same lineup he used in Saturday’s 8-6 loss.

For the record, it was RF Nick Markakis, SS Andrelton Simmons, 1B Freddie Freeman, LF Kelly Johnson, 3B Alberto Callaspo, 2B Jace Peterson, C Christian Bethancourt and CF Cameron Maybin batting eighth. The only difference from Saturday was the pitcher, with left-hander Alex Wood in the ninth spot Sunday.

After the Braves scored the second-fewest runs in the majors in 2014, then traded away three of their top hitters – Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, Evan Gattis – in the offseason, many expected offense to be another season-long struggle in 2015. Instead it’s pitching that’s been their major weakness through the first one-fifth of the season.

Braves pitchers ranked 13th in the National League in ERA (4.44) before Sunday, while the Braves were fifth in runs scored per game.

Before Sunday, Atlanta was 4-7 with a 5.83 ERA in its past 11 games beginning with consecutive losses to the Nationals April 28-29 in Atlanta.