We had it all the way. Ok, maybe not. That was probably one of the more entertaining comebacks I've seen since Brooks Conrad jacked a grando over the fence to beat the Reds. The best part was how it happened, by a complete meltdown of the Nats bullpen. We knew that in a bullpen battle, the Braves have the supreme advantage over the Nats, but what we didn't know was exactly how wild the Nats relievers can get under pressure.
The stage was set by Julio Teheran getting roughed up in the first two innings for a 0-4 deficit. Now, I'm not going to say the kid didn't make a few bad pitches, but for the most part he didn't pitch poorly. The problem in the first two innings was his inability to throw first pitch strikes to key batters, falling behind in counts, and then getting caught making a bad pitch. Also an error by CJ (Chris Johnson) in the first didn't help. After 2 innings though, Julio settled in and didn't allow a hit for the rest of his outing. That would prove very important.
Fast forward to the 7th inning, still down 0-4. CJ decides to make up for his early error by taking Detwiler yard. That makes the game 1-4, but it also did something more important. It broke up Detwiler's shutout. He was only at 90 pitches after the 7th concluded, and he could have come back in for the 8th. However, now that the Braves had knocked one off of him, the Nats manager decided to go to his struggling pen in the 8th.
With 2 outs, and Tyler Clippard appearing to cruise, the wheels came off. Heyward walks, J Up singles, Gattis walks, and BJ walks. Suddenly it's 2-4 with the bases loaded. Dan Uggla then smashes one to center we all thought was gone off the bat. Unfortunately the wind caught it, and the inning was over. At that point, we could have said it's not our day and given up. That was our chance. Enter Drew Storen in the 9th. CJ comes up again with a leadoff single. Pena then lays down one of the sweetest bunts you're likely to see all season. If you can find a replay of it, please watch it, because it's the baseball equivilant of catching an entire team with their pants down. Perfect move, and a perfect execution. Blake DeWitt, the guy nobody remembered was on the team, laid down the sacrifice bunt to get both guys over. We're in full-on small ball at this point. Heyward walks. The bases are juiced again...and Justin Upton is coming to the plate.
Something very small but very key happened in Justin's AB. Upton on the first pitch popped up to the foul ground first base side. That ball should have stayed in play, but the same wind that knocked Dan's long bomb to center down, moved that ball into the crowd. The wind taketh, and the wind giveth another chance. Justin didn't waste it. A slapper to third that caught Zimmerman in a do or die throw ended up costing the Nats dearly. Zimmerman tossed it into right field, two runs came home, and we were tied. Who likes free baseball? We like free baseball!
Extra innings is advantage Braves, because our pen rocks. EOF comes in and just takes down 3 Nats in order. Ho-hum, baby. Then, in the top of the 10th, it was time for an unlikely hero. After Uggla walked, and CJ and BJ made outs, short Ramiro Pena, layer of great bunts, sauntered to the plate. On a 1-0 count, Craig Stammen tossed him an inside fast ball above the knees, and Pena dropped the barrel on it. It was a no doubter homer to RF. Cheers went up everywhere in Braves Country. Cheers went up in Pena's native Mexico. The fans actually at the Nats home game started to do the chop IN THEIR BUILDING. How's that for Natitude, you wanna-be Expos?
Oh and to finish things in the 10th for good measure, we give them the K-Crab. Kimbrel dealt Bryce Harper a little taste of what real pitching looks like. Turns out Bryce doesn't like it much, since he struck out swinging. Also, I'd like to take a moment to say that whatever Tom Brady-esque nonsense that Harper is trying to cultivate on the top of his head? It looks like a mop is attacking his skull. 3 up, 3 down. Braves win. It was a great finish to a game that looked dire after a couple of innings.
The CPA looked right with it's 2-5 loss prediction yesterday until the 9th inning. I'm happy it was wrong, and it goes to 7-3 on the season. Let's see what it thinks about today's big matchup on FOX.
CPA Prediction Game 2: Braves 7 - Nats 3
The CPA really likes the Braves in this game. Most of our hitters have had great success against Strasburg, which isn't the norm for the league. Also, the bats are hot right now, and the momentum is on our side. It could be a Braves blowout if we jump on them early. Uggla has been especially successful, so look for him to provide some key ABs in the matchup. Also, if we work pitch counts and get Strasburg out of the game in the 6th, we get to see that sweet, sweet Nats pen again.