If you tuned out after the bottom of the 6th, I can’t blame you, because you’d have been as surprised as I was to see the final result. But this is starting to look like a team that you can’t turn off.
First, things looked pretty dire. Julio Teheran started off the way he has entirely too often, and the Atlanta defense didn’t help matters. Denard Span started out with a dribbler down the third base line — Chipper’s signature play — but Chris Johnson is not Chipper Jones, so he threw a bit wildly, and Evan Gattis allowed his foot to come off the bag at first. Two batters later, Bryce Harper hit a two-run homer.
Teheran’s too homer-prone for anyone’s liking, but home runs to Harper will happen. So will squibbers. The second inning was the real problem. A leadoff walk to the 8th-place hitter was followed by a sac bunt and two singles, turning a manageable 2-0 deficit into a less ideal 4-0 deficit. (That was because Justin Upton foolishly tried to throw out the first runner, allowing the runner to advance into scoring position, so he could be scored on another single.) Then Dan Uggla failed to catch a throw from Gerald Laird on a Jayson Werth stolen base attempt, allowing Werth to get to third, but Teheran got out of the inning.
That was a good sign, as Teheran settled down. He retired the next eight men in a row (and nearly got a ninth but Evan Gattis dropped a foul pop-up). In all, from the 3rd through the 6th innings, Teheran gave up no hits and got four strikeouts against two walks against a pretty good offense.
Giving up four runs isn’t ideal. But seeing him hang tough and improve as the game went on was awfully good to see, particularly the strikeouts. Additionally, since he went six innings, it was the longest start of his career.
There was basically no offense to speak of until the seventh inning. The Braves treated Ross Detwiler like Cliff Lee, with one exception. Justin Upton hit a ball off the top of the wall in the 6th inning that I would have called a homer but the umpires looked at for five minutes and decided to call it a double. Had the Braves lost, that play would have loomed large. As it was, it can be blissfully overlooked.
A Chris Johnson solo shot in the 7th inning was the only run against Detwiler, but the Braves feasted on the Nats bullpen, as they did last July.
Tyler Clippard came in and got two quick outs. But then he walked Heyward, gave up a single to Upton, and Gattis walked the bases loaded. Then B.J. Upton drew a walk to bring in a run. Clippard was removed for Drew Storen… and Dan Uggla came up, swung at the first two pitches, and on the second, he flew out to deep center field. Inning over.
Chris Johnson singled, Ramiro Pena hit a perfect bunt single, and Blake DeWitt was sent up to bunt them both over. Andrelton Simmons struck out on three straight sliders, but Heyward walked the bases loaded again. And Justin Upton came to the plate. He pulled a grounder to third base, where the normally sure Ryan Zimmerman threw it away, and two runs scored. Tie ballgame. In the tenth, Uggla walked, and New Folk Hero Ramiro Pena hit a two-run homer — his first since June 15, 2011. The Kraken came in and that was it.
The bullpen was tremendous, as Luis Ayala, Jordan Walden, Eric O’Flaherty, and Craig Kimbrel pitched four scoreless. And the Braves drew seven walks against eight strikeouts. As long as the Braves keep drawing walks and hitting homers, they’re going to be an awfully tough team to beat.