What a ball game.
The Washington Nationals came from 9-1 down in the second inning to beat the Atlanta Braves 13-12 in the largest comeback in Nationals’ history.
Tonight was Max Scherzer‘s spot in the rotation, but he injured his thumb batting during his last start against the St. Louis Cardinals. Instead of turning to Tanner Roark, a 15-win starter in 2015, the Nationals decided to call up A.J. Cole for his Major League debut. Cole is a top prospect for the club and Baseball America ranked him at the Nationals’ sixth ranked prospect before the season started. His first start in the bigs did not go as I am sure he would have hoped.
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Nick Markakis started the Braves out on the right foot with a leadoff single in the first. Freddie Freeman singled, moving Markakis to third. That allowed A.J. Pierzynski to drive home on a sac fly to Bryce Harper. Cole then uncorked a wild pitch moving Freeman to second. Alberto Callaspo would drive home with a double to right field, making the score 2-1. Cole was able to control the damage that half inning by striking out Kelly Johnson.
Cole was not so lucky in the second inning, and unfortunately for him and the Nationals, the wheels fell off the bus and Cole gave up seven runs in his final inning of work. 11 Braves batted in the inning that should have ended with only two runs but another error by the Nationals kept the inning going. This time, it was A.J. Cole who did not secure the ball from Ryan Zimmerman when he went to cover first, which ended up costing the team five unearned runs. A.J. Cole’s final line was not pretty: two innings pitched, nine runs (four earned runs) on nine hits, one walk, and one strikeouts.
However, give the Nationals offense a lot of credit. They fought back all night long after finding themselves in a hole early. It started with a great display of small ball in the top of the third with a Denard Span double. Then, Ian Desmond moved him over to third on a ground out. Jayson Werth would drive Span in with a sac fly to center to make it 9-2. The dugout seemed energized after this run and it spilled over into the fifth where the Nats put up a four spot in their half of the inning. Span again got the rally started with another double and Desmond was able to reach on a fielding error. Again, Werth was able to drive Span home on a sac fly and, after a Zimmerman single, Jose Lobaton homered to the opposite field, making the score 10-6 Braves.
Span continued his great night by hitting his first home run of the season in the top of the sixth, which brought the Nats to within three. Span went 5-for-6 with four runs scored in the win.
The seventh inning saw the Nats tack on another three runs. Bryce Harper and Jose Lobaton started things off with two walks. After that, it was Dan Uggla who damaged his former club with a bases clearing triple to make it 11-9 Braves. That was immediately followed immediately by a Reed Johnson RBI ground-rule double to cut the deficit to one run.
Dan Uggla continued to be the man of the night in the top of the ninth inning when mashing a towering, three-run homer to left field against closer Jason Grilli to put the Nationals up for good, 13-12.
The Braves had plenty of opportunities to have another big inning, but the Nats bullpen did a good job at holding them to just one run per scoring threat. The Braves scored one run in the fourth, sixth and seventh innings, but were unable to pull away for Washington.
Finally, give a lot of credit to the bullpen for keeping the score close and the offense for lighting the fire and pulling this amazing game out. It is way too soon to tell if this is a turning point for the club, but the Nationals showed everyone how much character they have as a team and how good they can be when they are clicking on all cylinders.
Next Game: The Washington Nationals will look to win the series tomorrow night at 7:10 PM ET. You can catch the game on MASN. Jordan Zimmerman (1-2, 5.23) gets the start for Washington against lefty Alex Wood (1-0, 3.00).