Sep 17, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; A view of the scoreboard following the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves game at Nationals Park. The Nationals won 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Morning Chop: Atlanta Braves News 9/18


Nationals pitcher Tanner Roark shuts down Braves, 4-0

The Tanner Roark traveling road show squared off with the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night, and the results weren’t pretty for the NL East division leaders.

Sep 17, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals pitcher Tanner Roark (59) throws during the second inning against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

After a disappointing start to the day for the Braves that ended with a highly-unexpected error from all-world shortstop Andrelton Simmons, the Braves couldn’t muster a single run against the aforementioned Roark and the Nationals in suffering a 4-0 loss in the nightcap. Roark absolutely breezed through 7 innings, allowing only 2 hits and 1 walk while striking out 6 batters. With that, the 26-year-old right-hander has 13 consecutive scoreless innings against the Braves (over 3 appearances), and he has apparently solved the riddle of the Atlanta offense.

Lost in the Roark show was the outstanding effort from Braves starter Freddy Garcia. The 37-year-old (doesn’t he seem older?) navigated through 7 innings while allowing only 1 run, and in the process, continued his insanely strong performance while in a Braves uniform. The entire baseball world has seemingly made jokes about the Garcia era in the Atlanta rotation, but if he continues to pitch with this effectiveness, the laughter will cease in a hurry.


ATL All Day

Kimbrel, Simmons Have A Rough Ninth Inning As The Braves Fall To The Nationals 6-5

Sometimes you just can’t predict baseball.

First, the Nationals had this game in the bag.  Mike Minor started the game out horribly and before you know it the Nationals had a 3-0 lead after the first inning.  Minor walked the first two hitters and gave up hits to Jason Werth and Adam LaRoche to steak the Nationals to an early lead.  The Braves then proceeded to blow more chances to get back into the game by having 2 on with 1 out in the 1st and 2nd inning and coming away empty-handed.  Other than that bad first inning Minor was excellent.  He completed 6 innings only giving up 3 hits but walking 4 and only allowing those 3 first inning runs.  He retired the last 13 batters that he faced.

The middle of the game was a snooze-fest as Minor and Haren continued to mow down hitters as 19 straight were retired between the two pitchers.  Elliot Johnson broke that up with a lead-off double in the 6th and eventually would come home on a Freddie Freeman sacrifice fly.  It finally put the Braves on the board and was Freeman’s 100th RBI of the season.  He is the first Brave to get 100 RBI in a season since Chipper Jones and Jeff Francoeur both did it in 2007.



Nats look to continue Wild charge in finale vs. Braves

After the series opener between the Braves and the Nationals was postponed in light of Monday morning’s shooting at the Naval Sea Systems Command headquarters just a few blocks east of Nationals Park, the teams reconvened at the field on Tuesday to play a day-night doubleheader. The Nationals staged an improbable ninth-inning comeback to take a 6-5 walk-off win in the first game thanks to three runs off All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel and a rare fielding error by shortstop Andrelton Simmons.

Then in the nightcap, rookie Tanner Roark tossed seven shutout innings to become the first rookie this season to win seven decisions in a row, as the Nationals completed the doubleheader sweep with a 4-0 victory. The Nationals head into Wednesday night’s finale looking to stay hot against an Atlanta team that has dominated the NL East all year and cap off a thrilling season series between the two division rivals on a high note.

“We like playing them,” shortstop Ian Desmond said of the Braves on Tuesday. “Things may have become a little more adverse, but I think if any of us saw each other in the offseason, we’d be buddies and sit down and have a drink together or a sandwich. It’s all about baseball and it doesn’t really matter who is on the other side. Just play and be professional and do your job.”

Ross Ohlendorf gets the ball for the Nationals on Wednesday night with a chance to bring his team closer to the final Wild Card spot in the National League — the Nats trail the Reds by 4 1/2 games — and force the Braves to take their celebratory champagne to Chicago ahead of a three-game series with the Cubs.


Before It’s News

Atlanta Braves miss their unspoken leader: Jason Heyward

That guy is Jason Heyward.

Now, it pains me to say that, considering he’s currently on the DL and expects to stay there for at least another week or two. At best, he might make it back for four or five games before the end of the season. And I’m concerned about the impact of his brutal injury on his mindset when he does return to the game. But Heyward is a game-changer like Chipper was. They do it in different ways, certainly, but the result is the same.

Look at the numbers. When Heyward began hitting leadoff in late July, the Braves offense exploded. It was a ripple effect that went all the way down the lineup. Justin Upton moved into the number-two spot, which seemed strange for a power hitter; but it allowed him to see more fastballs, which turned out to be his bread and butter. As you probably recall, the Braves went on a 14-game winning streak. You might also recall they scored 40 runs in four games against the Rockies after completing a sweep against the Cardinals. During that same 14-game span, they outscored opponents 78-31.

Now, here’s the intangible part: I can’t say for sure it was due to Heyward batting first. I can’t say for sure it wasn’t in response to losing Hudson for the rest of the season. What I can say is, before Heyward began hitting at the top, the lineup couldn’t seem to pull the pieces together. And they haven’t been able to do it since Heyward went down with a broken jaw. Justin Upton, who still spent time batting second, hasn’t been batting as well. In fact, the only hitters who have kept up their success are Freddie Freeman and Chris Johnson. Then again, they were before then, too.



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