Slumping teams always need to find a formula to start winning again, and the Atlanta Braves may have found one in the form of their division rivals. The Braves recovered from a rough 10 game road trip to beat the Washington Nationals, 3-2 on Monday.
Fresh off a four game losing streak and seven of nine during a brutal run away from Turner Field, Atlanta returned home to face Washington, a team entering Monday with a 13-12 record, supremely disappointing as defending division champs and winners of 98 games in 2012.
In a game featuring two highly touted young pitchers, phenom, Steven Strausberg, faced off against rookie Julio Teheran. Both pitchers departed with the score tied, 2-2. While Jordan Walden held it down from the Braves bullpen eventually leading to a Craig Kimbrel save, Tyler Clippard blew the game in the seventh for the Nats.
After issuing the fifth leadoff walk of the game by Nationals’ pitching, Gerald Laird advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from Tyler Pastornicky. Jordan Schafer, currently trying to push BJ Upton out for more playing time in the future, followed with a single to put runners in the corners.
Rookie, Andrelton Simmons, then hit a sac fly to Jayson Werth in right, deep enough to score the go-ahead run when Werth’s throw sailed off line. While Simmons produced the eventual winning run, it was Schafer who was the offensive hero.
Playing in right field for the injured Jason Heyward, Schafer went one for one with three walks out of the leadoff spot, and stole a base in the first inning leading to a 1-0 Atlanta lead. For now, when Heyward returns, it is likely to be Schafer relegated to part-time duties, but BJ Upton is hitting .151/.229 and has 30 strikeouts in 86 at bats and Schafer’s ability to get on base and provide speed may challenge Upton’s starting authority.
For the Braves it was a much-needed win and kept Atlanta perfect against the team it will likely be battling all season. The loss dropped the Nationals back to .500 and the win gives the Braves a 3.5 game cushion over Washington. At 16-9, Atlanta is at the top of the National League East.