Following Tuesday night’s horrifics, a Skipism was fresh in my mind as today’s game started: “And like lambs to the slaughter, the Braves take the field.” You kind of get the feeling that the Braves may have woken a sleeping giant by allowing the Nationals to come all the way back last night, when they were mired in a 6-game skid and had been playing awful baseball. If the Nationals do catch fire and ride this tide to a World Series title, the Braves have no caps to tip but their own.
The game started off positively enough. Following Alex Wood’s 1-2-3 top of the 1st, the Braves offense picked up right where they left off last night. Nick Markakis singled, Freddie Freeman doubled, and AJ Pierzynski drove them both home with a bloop hit into centerfield. He then promptly forgot how many outs there were and got himself doubled off first following Chris Johnson’s flyout to center to end the inning, but he does have a 12-game hitting streak and has been one of the biggest surprises of the season.
Things started going downhill from there. Bryce Harper singled and came home on a base hit by Wilson Ramos in the 2nd for the Nationals first run. The Braves got that run back in the 3rd, when Andrelton Simmons tried to ground into a double play, but he ended up on second after Ryan Zimmerman could not handle Dan Uggla’s poor throw. Freeman continued his Gnats-mashing ways with an RBI single to push the lead to 3-1.
Then Alex Wood had a full-blown Episode. Harper doubled for his second hit of the night, and Zimmerman singled him home after Kelly Johnson dropped the ball for no apparent reason. The Nationals then loaded the bases with two outs to bring up Jordan Zimmermann, and Wood had a great chance to get out of it. Zimmermann, though, chimed in on the whole DH-to-the-NL debate in his own way, hitting a bases clearing double and putting his team up 5-3.
The Braves got one back in the 5th when Eric Young Jr. walked, and Phil Gosselin, pinch hitting for Wood, singled him to 3rd. Young came home on a Markakis double play, but the Braves would not get any closer.
In a rather surprising move, Trevor Cahill relieved Wood in the 6th to try to save an overworked bullpen. Cahill was scheduled to start on Friday, the same night Mike Foltynewicz is scheduled to pitch in Gwinnett, so let the speculation begin.
Cahill was Cahill, and gave up 4 runs in 2 innings. Dan Uggla picked up an RBI in the 6th with a groundout, and in the 7th Jayson Werth singled past a drawn-in infield to score Denard Span before Danny Espinoza got a bases-loaded single to push the Nationals lead to 9-4.
Michael Kohn pitched the 8th and John Cornely made his major league debut in the 9th, giving up an RBI single to Braves-killer Uggla and a 3-run homer to Span.
Twenty-one games into the season, the Braves have fallen under .500 for the first time. That is, quite honestly, much better than I would have predicted heading into the season.
Alex Wood looked like he righted the ship some with a perfect 5th inning to end his night, but the Braves pitching is concerning. Shelby Miller has looked pretty good, but Wood and Julio Teheran have not been themselves, and it’s nearly May and no Braves starter has completed the 7th inning. Hopefully the pitching will take off as the weather warms, but this season is proving that no matter how much gold Roger McDowell can spin out of straw, he still needs straw to start with in order to work his magic.