When the second half began Friday night, it marked the return of Martin Prado to the Braves lineup.
He made a grand appearance in the opener, as the Braves clobbered Livan Hernandez and the visiting Nationals, 11-1, but not without a little help from Mike Morse and the Washington defense.
After watching Tim Hudson give up a run in the bottom of the first, the Braves stormed right back, putting up a four-spot in the bottom half of the inning.
On one play, Morse committed two errors, booting a Jordan Schafer grounder before overthrowing the bag, putting Schafer on second. A single off the bat of Freddie Freeman, a double from Dan Uggla, a throwing error by the Nationals shortstop and a single by Nate McLouth plated four runs, giving Hudson a little leeway.
As the Braves continued to add more runs, Hudson continued to silence the Nationals bats, giving up 7 hits and the one run over 7 innings, striking out 7 and walking one.
Hudson gave himself a little more insurance in the 3rd when he singled home David Ross, and Prado made a grand entrance with a solo shot leading off the 4th, putting the Braves up 6-1.
The Braves were not done there, adding three more in the 6th and another two in the 7th before Scott Linebrink and George Sherrill closed the book on the Nationals, giving the Braves their 10,000th franchise win.
Prado went 2-for-5 in his return, adding 2 RBI’s. Freeman contributed 3 RBI’s while going 2-for-5. Each Atlanta position player, including Hudson, had at least one hit. McLouth and Hudson had two each. Hudson improved his record to 9-6.
In Saturday’s contest, the Nationals got to Tommy Hanson early, putting up a 3-spot in the top of the second before the Braves answered back in the bottom half.
Alex Gonzalez took John Lannan deep for a two-run shot, but it was all the Braves could muster up, as the Nationals added two more in the 6th, building a 5-2 lead before Drew Storen earned his 24th save. Hanson’s record dropped to 10-5.
The biggest head-scratcher of the entire weekend came Sunday, as the Braves sent Jair Jurrjens to the mound opposite Tom Gorzelanny.
The Braves jumped out to an early 2-0 lead thanks in part to aggressive baserunning by Jordan Schafer, who scored on a Prado single, and a wild pitch that scored Prado from third.
As consistent as he had been through the first half, JJ looked human in his first start of the second half, giving up two runs in the 3rd and four more in the 4th, watching the Nationals build a 6-2 lead before retiring the side 1-2-3 in his 5th and final inning.
And that is when the Braves offense got their All-Star off the hook, with a little help from another All-Star.
Wilkin Ramirez led off the inning with a sharp double before Jason Heyward was hit by a pitch, giving the Braves a threat with no outs. Schafer promptly hit a sharp grounder that got past Morse and scored Ramirez, putting the game at 6-3.
After Prado grounded out to first, Brian McCann gave Sean Burnett a grand-welcome, drilling his fastball into right field for a three-run homer, tying the game at 6.
Freeman walked in the next at bat before taking third on Uggla’s single. He scored on Gonzalez’s groundout, putting the Braves up 7-6.
The lead did not last long, as George Sherrill gave up a two-run homer to Danny Espinosa, putting the Nationals ahead, 8-7.
Not to be outdone, McLouth came up with two out in the bottom of the 8th and hit a solo shot to right field off Tyler Clippard, the Nationals All-Star selection. McLouth’s homer tied the game at 8, taking Sherrill off the hook.
After Craig Kimbrel got out of a two-out jam in the top of the 9th, the Braves got things going early in the bottom half.
Brooks Conrad walked to lead off the inning and took second on Schafer’s sac bunt, but was thrown out trying to advance from second to third on a ground ball hit to the shortstop.
With two outs and Prado on first, it was time for a little magic. Prado stole second, reading reliever Ryan Mattheus windup and swiping the bag on the reliever before watching McCann get intentionally walked, bringing up Freeman.
On the second pitch of the at bat, Freeman lined Mattheus pitch into right field, scoring Prado and ending the ballgame, as the Braves snatched victory from the hands of defeat.
Kimbrel earned the win, as his record is now 3-2. After giving up 6 runs, JJ’s ERA increased to 2.26.
Now, the Braves head west to Denver for a four-game set with the Colorado Rockies.