Bryce Harper, Bullpen Key in Washington Nationals’ 2-1 Win over Braves
The Washington Nationals notched a 2-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves in the second game of a four-game series at Nationals Park.
With two outs in the bottom of the eighth, men on first and second, and the score tied at zero, Bryce Harper stepped up to the plate against Atlanta Braves leftie Eric O’Flarethy.
The reigning NL MVP doesn’t shy away from any pitching matchup or game situation; in fact, the higher the stakes, the higher the chance he pulls through.
That sentiment rang true once again Tuesday night. Harper caught a slider on the outside of the plate and poked it into left field for a double, scoring two go-ahead runs. Dusty Baker threw his hands up and yelled out, Harper roared in celebration from second base, and the Washington Nationals were on their way to the first 5-1 start in the nation’s capital since the Senators in 1951.
Afterwards, four relief pitchers were called in and sealed the 2-1 win.
More from District on Deck
- Washington Nationals Minor League Spotlight: Robert Hassell III
- Washington Nationals Tuesday Q&A
- 3 Free Agents the Nationals Should Gamble On
- A Washington Nationals Christmas Wishlist
- Washington Nationals: Is Seth Lugo Still an Option?
While Harper’s signature moment was the game-changer, Gio Gonzalez controlled the first six innings. Gonzalez (6.0 IP, 3 H, O ER, 4 SO, 1 BB) came off 13 days of rest and completely dominated in his first start of the year.
Though Gonzalez had a 4.54 ERA and 1.434 WHIP in 13 career starts against the Braves, his start’s only blemish was a walk of Freddie Freeman in the first inning and three singles. He threw 95 pitches, 61 for strikes.
“Gio was very sharp,” Dusty Baker told reporters at the post-game press conference. “You couldn’t tell he missed two weeks. He was very good tonight.”
Shaun Kelley, Oliver Perez, Blake Treinen and Felipe Rivero came out of the bullpen to pitch the final four innings and followed Gonzalez’s example. While Treinen did allow a run in the top of the ninth, he struck out two and passed the torch to Felipe Rivero for the save. Jonathan Papelbon was resting after pitching three straight games.
Gonzalez and Atlanta starter Jhoylys Chacin both benefited from Nationals Park playing big on a cool night. Chacin (6 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 8 SO, 0 BB) pitched one of the best games of his career. Washington hitters were off-balance all night and managed only one extra-base hit — Harper’s go-ahead double.
Two pop-outs in the first inning were accompanied by two strikeouts in the second. The Nats didn’t get anything going until the seventh, when Daniel Murphy singled to lead off the inning.
The dugout called for a hit-and-run, and Murphy went on the first pitch to Jayson Werth. Werth attempted to take advantage of the hole that was left on the right side of the infield, but ended up flying out to right field. Murphy was doubled up at first.
The bullpen kept the game close. Shaun Kelley recovered from his worrisome outing on Opening Day with two strikeouts in one inning of work.
Oliver Perez followed, walking two and striking out one in only 1/3 of an inning. Afterwards, Treinen was called in and was set up to secure the save with strikeouts of Erick Aybar and Tyler Flowers, but allowed a run on a double by Kelly Johnson into right field. With the score now 2-1, the game was suddenly not a done deal.
But, with Papelbon resting, Rivero came in and got the save with a strikeout of Mallex Smith.
Next: Washington Nationals Reaction: Offense, Bullpen Help Out Max Scherzer In 6-4 Win
What’s Next: Stephen Strasburg will face the Braves on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. ET at Nationals Park. Matt Wisler will start for Atlanta. You can catch the game on MASN2.