Nats score four in first inning, beat Braves again

Even as Philadelphia reeled off the past five consecutive National League East titles and Washington finished behind Atlanta every season, the Braves struggled not only against the Phillies but also the Nationals.

Now the Nationals have replaced the Phillies atop the division standings, and the Braves have stumbled more than ever against the Nationals. Which is problematic, because it makes it tough to gain ground on a team ahead of you when you rarely beat said team.

The Nationals scored four runs in the first inning against Braves starter Tim Hudson and never trailed in an 8-4 win Sunday to clinch the series on another scorching afternoon at Turner Field.

“We fought,” said Braves center fielder Michael Bourn, whose error let in the fourth run of the first inning. “But it wasn’t enough fight.”

It seldom has been enough lately for the Braves against the Nationals, who’ve won eight of their past 10 against Atlanta including six of eight this season. The Braves lost two of three in the series to fall to third place, 4-1/2 games behind the Nationals and 1-1/2 games behind New York pending the outcome of the Mets’ Sunday night game against the Dodgers at Los Angeles.

The temperature soared to an all-time Atlanta record 106 degrees on Saturday and to 104 during Sunday’s game, but Hudson (6-4) said the heat “wasn’t too bad” and had nothing to do with his first-inning problems. He gave up three consecutive hits to start the game, including a leadoff double by Steve Lombardozzi and two-run double by Ryan Zimmerman that both came on 1-and-2 counts.

“I got ahead of some guys and have just got to make some better pitches with two strikes,” said Hudson, who lasted six innings and gave up eight hits and six runs (five earned). “I just missed over the plate, up in the zone. Just wasn’t very good.”

Zimmerman went 3-for-4 with four RBIs, including a mammoth solo homer in the fifth.

Freddie Freeman hit a three-run homer in the sixth off Nationals All-Star Gio Gonzalez to cut the lead to 6-4. But even on a day when Gonzalez left without getting an out in the sixth inning — only the fourth time in the left-hander’s 16 starts that he failed to work at least six innings – the Braves never were closer than two runs. They lost for the 45th time in 80 games against the Nationals since the beginning of the 2008 season.

“They’ve given us trouble for the last six or eight years, for whatever reason,” said Chipper Jones, whose RBI double in the third inning accounted for the Braves’ only scoring until Freeman’s homer. “I can put my finger on it a lot better this year and maybe last year than I could the previous four or five years, because [now] they obviously have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball.

“But it just seems like they’ve always hit our pitching, and it seems like their pitchers have always made pitches to get themselves out of trouble whenever we’ve threatened. So it’s just one of those trends that we have to turn around.”

The Braves are 3-3 on a season-long homestand that concludes with a four-game series beginning Monday night against the Chicago Cubs, the NL Central’s last-place team. After that, the Braves play three games at Philadelphia before the All-Star break begins.

The Braves wasted scoring opportunities in the seventh and eighth innings, then struggling reliever Jonny Venters was charged with two runs in the ninth as the Nationals regained a comfortable margin.

Venters hit Steve Lombardozzi with a pitch with one out, then walked Bryce Harper after getting ahead in the count 0-and-2 against the rookie. Zimmerman followed with an RBI single and Venters was replaced by Cristhian Martinez, who coaxed a grounder from Michael Morse but couldn’t prevent another run from scoring when Zimmerman slid and broke up the potential double-play.

Besides Freeman’s homer, the other offensive highlight for the Braves was a 14-pitch plate appearance by rookie Andrelton Simmons with two outs in the second inning. He fouled off nine Gonzalez pitches including eight in a row before drawing a walk.

David Ross followed with a single and Hudson walked to load the bases, but Bourn lined out to short to end the inning with the Braves still down 4-0. The Braves went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, after going 2-for-10 in those situations in Friday’s 5-4 series-opening loss and 0-for-8 in Thursday’s 3-2 loss to Arizona.

“[Simmons] had an unbelievable at-bat,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “We got the bases loaded and don’t get anything there. But he [pitcher Gonzalez] got taxed. I think he had 100 and something pitches in five innings. That was one hell of an at-bat. He’s swinging the bat well. Jason Heyward’s swinging the bat well. Chipper had a big double and RBI. And Freeman with a three-run homer.

“We swung the bats extremely well, but we just got behind the eight-ball there right out of the chute.”

48 comments Add your comment

2011 again?

July 1st, 2012
7:58 pm

THIS TEAM SUCKS!!

Washington Nationals

July 1st, 2012
8:11 pm

Oh no! The Braves have signed Ben Sheets! That really strikes fear in us. There goes any chance we had at a division title. It’s over, the Braves win.

who cares??

July 1st, 2012
8:22 pm

When is this sorry organization movin??

go-BRAVOS

July 1st, 2012
8:25 pm

Swung the bats extremely well huh Fredi????? Just not when runners were on base, but hey I guess that doesn’t matter much.

dre

July 1st, 2012
8:54 pm

what a way to spend a day… sitting in unbearable heat and humidity, paying exhorbitant prices to see surly, unpleasant, immature men running around playing baseball. You fans are brilliant LOL.

southgabrave

July 1st, 2012
9:02 pm

The Nats are not one of the best run scoring teams in the NL, yet Brave pitchers don’t know that yet!!!

I think Fredi should play Mc Cann tomorrow after the heat today on Ross, but put Ross back in there on Tuesday nd Wednesday. Then give McCann 3 of the next 5 days off. Maybe the last 2 in Philly. That way he would have 5 in a row off combine with the All-Star break. First year in a while he will not be there. He has got to learn not to try to “pull” everything.

This teams pitching staff other than Kimbrell and O’Flar is not very dependable. I have said it in SP and last yer, the best starter was Beachy. Now you can tell it. He lwys gave us a chance, just score some runs for him.

Alan Salus

July 1st, 2012
9:03 pm

We gave away this series in game 1. Need to play error-free ball!

NorCal Brave

July 1st, 2012
9:37 pm

Simmons did have a great at-bat in the 2nd; he seems to consistently stretch the pitch count, whereas Bourn strikes out quickly much too often. As for Chipper’s comment about the Nats, Everyone is hitting our pitching this year, and if we can’t score 5 runs a game every time out, it’s tough to win. I know a lot of players have off-years; when you have key guys like McCann and Venters playing so poorly, there’s a lot slack to make up for. And what do you do when your big RH bat is of no value for extended periods? Have fun at the all star game though, Dan.

SC Brave

July 1st, 2012
10:30 pm

It’s about as hard to be positive about this series as it for for the hitters to drive in runs or the pitchers to have shut down innings. If there was anything they could do wrong they did it. This group of players (are not a team) is better that they have shown. Young players/rookies should be having up anddown seasons but they are the only ones playing with enthusiasm. Did you see the interview with Tim Hudson after the game. He was a whipped puppy. As they start the series with the Cubs don’t forget tomorrow is 0 for Monday.

Yogi Berra

July 1st, 2012
11:01 pm

Go vote for Chipper or Bourn for All-Stars…u can vote as long as you wish no limit. Harper fans will stuff the votes so vote for a Brave.

Who Me?

July 2nd, 2012
12:11 am

McCann Uggla and Chipper. Need I say more?

The Grinch

July 2nd, 2012
5:15 am

I know Uggla’s in a slump, but dang, y’all. He busts his butt every play and never shies from the camera or mic even in dark times. Cut him some slack. Don’t act like you don’t love it when he cranks one out, and his OBP stays high regardless.

shorty58

July 2nd, 2012
6:27 am

Fire Fredi The Fail this team is lost under him..we need a manager with fire..with guts…at least Bobby had tons more emotion and fight than this clown.

reckingball

July 2nd, 2012
6:33 am

Break out the Kleenez.

CaptB

July 2nd, 2012
8:49 am

Whats with all the errors? This team plays undisciplined and unteamly. Is freddi the real deal as manager ?

Really?

July 2nd, 2012
8:53 am

So… if the ball hits on the outfield wall or just before it, it’s catchable…so why does Bourn play so shallow? This happens with pretty good regularity. Is he just unable to judge fly balls? If so, how did he get this far??? Don’t get me wrong.. .he’s great with the bat (normally) and a real threat on the basepath, but he’s no Andrew Jones when it comes to getting a jump off the hit ball or positioning himself or something.

Jason's Sweet Cheeks

July 2nd, 2012
8:58 am

@ Really? He’s just warming up for the Nats next year.

Nurse Ratched [aka Randal Patrick McMurphy]

July 2nd, 2012
9:06 am

Hahaha… Havana Fats just DOESN’T get it! Look folks, we’re stuck with the Train Wreck of a baseball team until management grows a spine, stands up and does what’s right for those kids down in that dugout! It’s really not the players for the most part – we’ve got “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight” leading this group from top to bottom; unfortunately they’re flying in ever-tightening concentric circles and before the season is done they will have flown up their own arses…

Here we are, 4.5 games out & sinking like a Stone… sadly, this team can’t get out of it’s own way…

S.O.S.

GeorgiaStormz

July 2nd, 2012
9:17 am

Darn those pesky nats, im going to DC, how about i wreck their equipment :)

GeorgiaStormz

July 2nd, 2012
9:18 am

Wheres that TOFB guy?

GeorgiaStormz

July 2nd, 2012
9:25 am

ok, im out.

go braves :-)

PMC

July 2nd, 2012
10:00 am

It’s very clear that right now the Nationals have built a better team than the Braves as constituted.

The Braves have some new issues now, with relief and starting pitching and old unfixed issues, like not being able to get base runners in or have any consistency with the lineup.

They are an average team right now, they could still win this year, but as constituted, they are going to need some help. I’m not sure Ben Sheets is going to do much to remedy the situation.

Most of the help needs to come at the plate. Not just on the mound.

It’s fairly amazing that the Nationals as an organizaton can draft well, bring in a few key free agents and be a better club than the Braves, but it is what it is, the braves are a 2nd or 3rd place in the divison type of team right now, from the GM to the Scouting Department, to the management to the players.

PMC

July 2nd, 2012
10:03 am

The team isn’t “sinking” but neither are they climbing. They are an entirely average ball club right now.

84 – 78 sounds about right unless they make some changes by the deadline.

PMC

July 2nd, 2012
10:04 am

It’s kind of sad a once proud organization is back to taking flyers on guys that were out of the game for help.

NYBRAVESFAN

July 2nd, 2012
10:10 am

When is Freddie Gonzalez going to be on the HOT SEAT. We can’t keep losing series to teams in our division. This is not accetpable.

phil

July 2nd, 2012
10:15 am

Average is exactly the word to describe this bunch.

Not acceptable? What are you folks who find all of this unacceptable going to do about it?

That’s what I thought.

64 year Braves fan

July 2nd, 2012
10:37 am

Good news down on the farm. Gwinnet just broke 15 game losing streak. Release Diaz and bring up
Mejias & Costanza both hitting over 300. Get rid of Francisco too.

reckingball

July 2nd, 2012
10:48 am

The solution to the Braves not winning against the Nats is pretty clear.

DOB Needs To Ask Tough Questions!

July 2nd, 2012
10:53 am

You just have to tip your cap and move on.
And will it hurt the Cheapos to get a real power starting pitcher instead of these groundballers that just fizzle as the season rolls on?
Anyways…tip your caps everyone.

Sweet Old Buck

July 2nd, 2012
11:50 am

Reasons for optimism: Freddie’s hitting, again; Jason is fulfilling his potential; Simmons is a future all-star; Bourne and Prado are rock solid. Go Braves!

Yogi Berra

July 2nd, 2012
12:13 pm

Need to get off Bourn..He is one of the best players Braves have picked up in years. A lead-off hitter that Braves have not had since Ralph Garr.
He is hitting over 300 and already has 100 hits this year and 20 steals. The ball that got passed him yesterday took a bad hop but he still said it was his fault. When he’s on base things usally get moving for the Braves and he has made some damn great catches. Also 7 homers and should be in all-stars game.. I pray Braves sign him long term if possible. Ok, my $0.02 worth. Some people just like to bitch.

John A.

July 2nd, 2012
12:36 pm

Cancer has set in with the motivation of the team. Young players have had their hopes doused with lack of ability of experienced players (over the hill gang) that we have on the roster, and Frank continues to bring that mindset to the team. I have nothing against Ben Sheets, but he is a question mark. Look at Lowe (Cleveland Ace that we are paying for), there must have been a reason for his lack of interest last year. Get rid of McDowell, Fredi, and bring in a talented new group. Leo would be an excellent start, and find a baseball mind to replace Frank.

jim

July 2nd, 2012
12:39 pm

From Chipper’s quotes on previous blog —”It’s frustrating, but when you’ve got some young guys they’re going to make young mistakes.”

Excuse me, but Heyward scorched the ball all day, Freeman had 3 hits including a 3-run homer, Simmons drew a walk after a 14-pitch AB, went 1-3 and played flawlessly in the field. Varvaro had 2 shut down innings. Just which younger guys made mistakes? Bourn had a a big error and 3Ks, Uggla swung and missed more than a blindfolded kid trying to hit a pinata, and it was Chipper and Uggla who screwed up a DP grounder that allowed another run to score. Hudson let the game get away in the first inning, and Venters put it out of reach in the 9th. If you are going to make excuses, then start blaming the Vets who are not carrying their share of the load. Today there were no young mistakes, but quite a few old ones

Jaded Braves Fan

July 2nd, 2012
12:49 pm

John A., good post, but Lowe’s early run of luck with Cleveland has run out. He’s been getting hammered lately, and his ERA has skyrocketed. Lowe was and is awful, and I won’t criticize Wren for getting rid of him, nor will I commend him for cleaning up a mess of his own making.

BryceH

July 2nd, 2012
1:04 pm

Whiskey River

July 2nd, 2012
1:08 pm

@BryceH We already know that. If that is all you going to say then go away. Nat fans not allowed.

Whiskey River

July 2nd, 2012
1:09 pm

Very well said Jim. Completely agree,

jim

July 2nd, 2012
1:32 pm

It is now July. The season is half over. It is time for a set lineup, and the Saturday lineup was close to optimal: Bourn, Prado, Heyward, Freeman, (Chipper), Simmons, (Uggla, McCann), pitcher. The 5,7, 8 spots can vary depending on whether Chipper is playing and whether McCann or Uggla get hot, but 1 – 4 should be fixed and left alone, and Simmons should move into the 6th hole until either he shows he needs to move down or one of the vets shows they are ready to move up. Those first 6 have more consistent ABs and are more likely “to keep the line moving/”

reckingball

July 2nd, 2012
1:33 pm

I suppose that 27 yrs. is ‘old’ to some of these people.
As far as being a veteran player, I think that Heyward has a week or three, more time in MLB than Venters does.
go braves

Jason's Sweet Cheeks

July 2nd, 2012
1:43 pm

Recking ball IMO Venters, Kimbrell. Hanson Varvaro,and Viscaino. These are the pitchers we keep. Heyward, Freeman, Simmons, Prado. The rest can go. Build around the kids and let’s win in 2013

jim

July 2nd, 2012
1:54 pm

Jason’s Cheeks,

Add Delgado to your list of keepers. But I agree, McCann should not be extended beyond 2013 (if then), Hudson could bring back some good return after this season, the bench needs to be completely remade, and if a trade of Uggla could be negotiated DO IT!! Free up salary to pay the core players beyond their initial free agency, and add young talent around them.

jim

July 2nd, 2012
1:56 pm

Let’s not forget Beachy when listing the core group.

Kurt Cannon

July 2nd, 2012
1:57 pm

I am a Nats fan who lives in the DC area. I thought you folks might like to know that Bryce Harper casts his vote for Chipper to make the all star team. He is amazed that Chipper has not already been selected.

Jason's Sweet Cheeks

July 2nd, 2012
1:57 pm

Whoops forgot Delgado, SORRY.

Jason's Sweet Cheeks

July 2nd, 2012
2:00 pm

Beachy, Medlin. Maybe? IMO NO

jim

July 2nd, 2012
2:07 pm

Beachy is a keeper. Medlen? I don’t go out of my way to try to get rid of him, but if the right trade comes along I would not hesitate to part with him.

bravesgrl4life

July 2nd, 2012
2:36 pm

Sure hope we play the Cubs better here than we did in Chicago. Nice to know the porn star Smardjza or however you spell his name has been struggling since then.

Jason's Sweet Cheeks

July 2nd, 2012
2:41 pm

Don’t ask me how to spell. I hope he enjoys the heat. Go Braves!! I think you are a lady too.

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