As far as the regular season standings go, there wasnâ€™t a great deal riding on the outcome of this game. No matter who won, the Braves would end the day nestled somewhere near the midpoint of a 12-14 game gap between their nearest target (the Nats) and their closest pursuer (the Cards). Given that and the fact that the embattled Tommy Hanson was scheduled to toe the rubber, all but the most stalwart fans could be forgiven if they chose pursuits other than involving themselves in Saturdayâ€™s contest.
In fact, for a while the hometown nine seemed ambivalent about their own participation. In the first inning, a patented Adam LaRoche moonshot gave the Nats a 2-0 lead. In the second, vapor lock set in. After a one-out walk to Jesus Flores, Steve Lombardozzi hit a grounder to first, which Freeman handled cleanly about ten feet from the bag. Given the choice of 1) taking the out at first and then throwing to second for the tag play, or 2) going to second to start a traditional DP, Freddie fooled us all and chose neither. OK, thatâ€™s not quite fair, as he actually seemed to choose both, which took the form of spinning in place while his options dwindled, giving Hanson time to galumph into the fray and confuse things further, and all hands were safe.
Edwin Jackson then laid down a bunt, which Hanson was slow to field, and his hurried throw went into right field. Flores scored and Lombardozzi went to third, then scored when Heyward fielded the ball, decided he liked it, and chose to keep it. He wasnâ€™t given an error, but deserved one.
So it was 4-0, and the crowd was unhappy. From my Turner Field bachelor party suite vantage point, this took the form of a mass exodus from the seats and into the air conditioning to watch the Alabama-Arkansas game. Only your faithful correspondent and a few other masochists remained. Freeman, after a belly-flop triple, scored on a rocket double by Uggla in the bottom of the second, then slashed one into the seats in the fourth to cut the lead to 4-2. Things to cheer for. Nice.
Hanson settled down and got through the fifth with no further damage (though he did mix in a wild pitch, thus satisfying his quota of three dumb moments per start). The bottom of the sixth began with Prado being inexplicably called safe on a grounder to the pitcher, as the ump ruled LaRoche came off the bag to field the throw. First, he almost surely didnâ€™t. And second, ump Marvin Hudson was in no position to see it if he had. But hey, themâ€™s the breaks. Jackson went to a 2-1 count on Heyward, and just as I said to the guy next to me â€œthis is the pitch, right hereâ€ (honest!), JHey sent a screamer over the right field wall to tie the score.
Continued good work by the bullpen conspired to keep the Nats at bay (hey, a Mark DeRosa sighting!), and in the bottom of the eighth Ryan Mattheus gave up a single to Ross and walks to Uggla and Chipper to load the bases, then brushed Simmonsâ€™ jersey to allow the go-ahead run to score. Kimbrel Kimbreled, and we all went home unexpectedly happy.
Again, this series is unlikely to make much difference in the final standings â€“ but as a shot across the Nationalsâ€™ bow, so far itâ€™s going quite nicely. Mike Minor goes tonight against Gio Gonzalez, whom weâ€™ve handled pretty well in two of three prior starts this season. A series sweep in our final regular season matchup with the Nats would send them on their way with a little something to think about, so whaddaya say, fellas?