Missed Opportunities Doom Nationals in Home Opener Loss to Braves


Apr 4, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Atlanta Braves catcher

Evan Gattis

(24) tags out Washington Nationals first baseman

Adam LaRoche

(25) during the fourth inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit:

Brad Mills


After scoring 22 runs in a three-game sweep against the New York Mets, the Washington Nationals’ offense faltered as they dropped their home opener to the Braves, 2-1. As expected, pitchers dominated in a battle between two of the best pitching staffs in all of baseball.

Jordan Zimmermann got the start for the Nationals after missing his scheduled start yesterday afternoon because of flu-like symptoms. The Nationals’ right-hander was solid in his regular season debut, holding the Braves to just one run on four hits while striking out nine over five innings of work. Zimmermann’s only mistake came in the top of the fifth inning when Braves’ catcher Evan Gattis crushed a fastball over the left field wall, giving the Braves a 1-0 lead.

Unfortunately for the Nationals, Atlanta’s rookie starter David Hale was just as good as Zimmermann, throwing five scoreless innings while striking out four batters. As good as the Braves’ pitching was, however, the Nationals squandered several chances with the bat, the most painful of which came in the bottom of the eighth inning when the team had runners on first and second with no outs. Just when it looked like the offense would finally break through against the Braves, Adam LaRoche, Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper all struck out, stranding the runners and killing Washington’s rally.

Perhaps the most damaging moment for the Nationals’ offense came in the bottom of the fifth inning, when a controversial instant replay call cost the team a run. The play came with no outs in the inning when Ian Desmond hit a line drive into the left field corner. The ball rolled to the warning track and appeared to get caught under the padding of the wall, causing Braves left fielder Justin Upton to raise his arms, hoping that the umpires would rule it a ground-rule double. But the umpires made no such call, and Ian Desmond scored what stood as an inside the park home run until the umpires overturned the call after Braves’ manager Freddi Gonzalez challenged the play. Desmond then proceeded to get thrown out trying to steal third and the Braves kept their 1-0 lead.

The Nationals’ lone run came in the bottom of the sixth when a sacrifice fly by Ryan Zimmerman scored Anthony Rendon from third, tying the game at one. But the Braves would retake the lead in the top of the eighth, when a leadoff walk by Tyler Clippard came all the way around to score the winning run for the Braves. Once the game got to Braves’ closer Craig Kimbrel in the ninth, there was not much the Nationals could do, and the Braves took game one of the series 3-1.

They’ll be back at it tomorrow night, when Stephen Strasburg will take on Julio Teheran in game two.