The Washington Nationals opened a three game series against the Atlanta Braves on Friday night at Nationals Park. Behind a solid pitching performance by Gio Gonzalez and lots of home runs, the Nationals beat the Braves 9-2. Bryce Harper continued to be locked in, as he had three hits, including two home runs. Harper now has ten RBI’s in the last two games. Harper had two of Washington’s five home runs tonight. Jayson Werth was back in the lineup for the first time in several games. Plus, Danny Espinosa, who played second base tonight, had two home runs and played some excellent defense.
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Of course, Freddie Freeman hurt Gonzalez in the first inning. Andrelton Simmons was hit by a pitch when he had his foot out of the batter’s box and near the plate on a check swing and the pitch got his toe. Freeman doubled and Jonny Gomes hit a sacrifice fly to score Simmons from third. Gio escaped the inning with no further damage.
Eric Stults was the starting pitcher for the Braves. The Nats had a chance to score at least one run in the bottom of the second. Ryan Zimmerman singled, and then got to second on a wild pitch by Stults. Wilson Ramos singled to send Zimmerman to third, which extended his hit streak to 12 games. The Nats had runners on the corners with one out, but couldn’t plate a run. Both Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa struck out and the Nats stranded the first two base runners they got against Stults.
Freeman hurt the Nats again in the top of the third. Simmons singled and scored on another double by Freeman. The Nats had a play at the plate on Simmons, but Ramos couldn’t handle the throw from Espinosa to the plate.
Jayson Werth got the Nationals on the board in the top of the fourth. He hit a home run to left field, his first of the year. Harper singled but then made a bad base running mistake. He rounded the first base bag too far and got thrown out trying to get back to first. That was unfortunate, because Zimmerman singled right behind Bryce’s out. Ramos flew out and Desmond struck out, so the Nats only got one run out of an inning when they had three hits.
Harper redeemed the base running mistake in the bottom of the sixth. Yunel Escobar singled to lead off the inning, and then Harper homered to center to put the Nats ahead 3-2.
That put Gonzalez in line for the win. He went seven innings, and allowed no runs after the third inning. If it hadn’t been for Freeman, Gio may have had a shutout.
The Braves went to reliever Brandon Cunniff in the bottom of the seventh. The league had been hitting .038 against him. That didn’t matter to Espinosa, who hit a home run to left center to increase the Nats lead.
Matt Grace took over the pitching duties for the Nats in the top of the eighth. Nick Markakis singled to begin the inning, but Simmons hit into a 6-4-3 double play. That meant no one was on when Freeman came to the plate. Grace got Freeman to ground out into the shift for a scoreless inning.
Williams Perez made his major league debut pitching for the Braves in the bottom of the eighth. He will remember his debut for all the wrong reasons. Escobar walked and Werth singled. That set up Harper to hit another home run, a three-run shot to the second deck in right field for his 10th home run of the season. That made the score score 7-2. Drew Storen was warming up in the bullpen until Harper hit that three run shot. He sat down and Blake Treinen would come in to finish the game
Perez got a ground out from Zimmerman, but then walked Ramos. That was the end of Perez’s MLB debut. The Braves brought in Trevor Cahill to finish the inning. Desmond flew out to right, and then Espinosa hit his second home run of the game to left center to make the score 9-2. Tyler Moore popped out to end the inning, but the Nats had dropped a five spot on the Braves to put the game out of reach.
Next Game: The Nationals (15-15) continue their series with the Braves (14-15) on Saturday afternoon at 4:05 pm EST. Doug Fister (2-1, 2.61 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Nationals while Atlanta sends Julio Teheran (3-1, 3.82 ERA) to the hill in what promises to be a good pitching matchup. The game will be broadcast on MASN 2, WUSA-9, and Fox Sports 1.