When the Braves set out for their current nine-game road trip with the first stop in Washington, D.C., they knew business needed to be taken care of, as the Phillies were pulling away with the NL East lead, and the Wild Card was becoming a lot tighter.
But the Braves failed to take care of business, dropping the first two games to the pesky Nationals before holding on to win the finale Wednesday afternoon.
The Braves sent Jair Jurrjens to the mound Monday, looking to work off his start against Pittsburgh (7IP, 1R 6H, 4K) and watch his teammates win his 8th straight start.
But Jurrjens was hit early, watching former Brave Rick Ankiel lead off the bottom of the 1st for Washington with a solo shot. This was not the last the Braves heard from Ankiel in the game, or the series for that matter.
With one swing of the bat, Uggla tied the ballgame, extending his hitting streak to 23 games with a solo homer off Washington starter Livan Hernandez.
The Braves bats remained quiet until the 7th, while the Nationals continued to push for more. They added to their total with a run in the 2nd, another Ankiel solo homer in the 5th and two more runs in the 6th to take a 5-1 lead.
David Ross made things a little tighter in the 7th with a solo shot, but the catcher had a chance to put a bigger stamp on the game in the 4th.
After the Braves loaded the bases with one out, Ross grounded into an inning-ending double play, dousing any hopes for a rally.
Another opportunity was wasted in the 8th, when Jose Constanza found himself standing on second with one out, but did not cross home, as he was one of 3 runners stranded in scoring position on the night. The Braves stranded four runners the entire game.
Uggla came through with another home run in the 9th, making it a 5-3 game, but it was too little too late, as Drew Storen closed out the ballgame for Washington.
Jurrjens line against the Nationals was just as unimpressive as his last outing. The All-Star gave up 5 runs on 7 hits over 5 innings before handing the ball over to the Braves bullpen.
Tuesday, the Braves sent Derek Lowe to the mound looking to end their two-game skid, and all looked well until the fateful 4th inning.
The Nationals took a 1-0 lead in the 2nd before the Braves put two runs on the board in the 3rd.
Ross and Constanza began the inning with singles before Ross was thrown out at third on Lowe’s bunt attempt. Constanza scored on newly-acquired Michael Bourn’s double, and Lowe came home on Martin Prado’s groundout, putting Atlanta up 2-1.
The Braves added another in the 4th, after Alex Gonzalez scored on Constanza’s single. Gonzalez, who hit in 5th in the lineup Tuesday, singled with one out before taking second on Brooks Conrad’s single and took third on a fly out off the bat of Ross.
It seemed too good to be true before things fell flat on their face in the 4th.
Lowe loaded the bases, hoping to get Nationals starter John Lannan to ground into an inning-ending double play, but a miscue by Freddie Freeman allowed the Nationals to score and keep the bases loaded for Ankiel.
The former pitcher wasted no time in drilling Lowe’s offering over the center field wall for a grand slam, putting Washington up 6-3.
Lowe was not done digging himself a hole, as he allowed a two-run homer in the bottom of the 5th, watching the Nationals build an 8-3 lead before Cristian Martinez came in to try and stop the bleeding.
Aside from allowing Michael Morse to pad the Nationals lead with a solo homer of his own, Martinez and Scott Proctor each worked through the final 4 innings, combining to allow 4 hits while striking out 3. Lowe’s line was even more unimpressive than Jurrjens the night before.
The veteran, who has struggled mightily of late, allowed 8 runs on 10 hits over 4 innings. He struck out 3 and walked 2 while throwing just 81 pitches.
Uggla extended his hitting streak to 24 with a single in the 5th inning, while Freddie Freeman extended his streak to 17 games with a double in the 7th .
With Brandon Beachy taking the mound for Wednesday’s finale, the Braves looked to avoid a sweep before heading to New York for the second stop on the road trip.
The Braves staked Beachy to an early 2-0 lead in the first after Bourn, who singled to lead the game off and stole second, scored on Freeman’s groundout. Right after Bourn scored, Uggla extended his hitting streak to 25 with an infield single and came around to score on Alex Gonzalez’s RBI single. Bourn’s stolen base was his first in a Braves uniform, and Gonzalez’s RBI was his first since July 22.
As Beachy got through the Nationals lineup, Washington starter Chien-Ming Wang was showing the inconsistency that drove him out of New York.
Wang got through the 2nd, 3rd and 4th innings before seeing the Braves pad their lead in the 5th.
Beachy led the inning off reaching on a throwing error by Wang, and took second as the ball trickled down the line. A Constanza single moved Beachy to third, but the pitcher was thrown out trying to score on Prado’s grounder.
But with two outs, the Braves came through again. A Freeman single scored Bourn, putting runners at 1st and 2nd for Uggla, who drilled Wang’s offering into the seats in left as the Braves built a 6-0 lead. Freeman had extended his hitting streak to 18 games with an infield single in the 3rd.
After Beachy got through the 5th, he ran into trouble in the 6th, not recording an out while the Nationals got on the board quick, scoring 4 runs before the game was delayed by rain and making the game a little more interesting.
Anthony Varvaro relieved Beachy and got the first two outs of the inning before the rain began to fall. After a 22-minute delay, Eric O’Flaherty came in and recorded the final out in the 6th before retiring the Nationals 1-2-3 in the 7th.
Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel shut Washington down in the 8th and 9th, as Kimbrel recorded his 32nd save on the season and his first since July 22. Beachy earned the win, his 5th of the year, giving up the 4 runs on 7 hits over 5-plus innings. The rookie struck out four and walked one.
Now, the Braves head to New York to take on the Mets for a three-game series beginning Friday night. Thursday is the teams first day off since the All-Star break.