When the Braves opened up a three-game set with the visiting Nationals Tuesday, they were coming off a break that many felt put them in a great position for the stretch run after having three days off.
But the opener did not seem as though things were looking up, as Jair Jurrjens once again got shelled by the Nationals lineup. The All-Star gave up 6 runs on 8 hits over 6 innings while watching his own offense struggle against Livan Hernandez.
No Brave had a more than one hit, and Jason Heyward collected the only two RBI’s for Atlanta, as the Nationals continued their dominance of the Braves with the 9-2 win. Jurrjens gave up three home runs while watching his ERA rise to 2.96.
With the month ending at the conclusion of Wednesday’s game, the Braves were looking to end August on a positive note before heading into the final month of the season.
Before the game, the Braves re-acquired Matt Diaz, and he was promptly inserted into the lineup, as the Braves faced John Lannan, the Nationals starter.
Derek Lowe got some support early, as Chipper Jones put the Braves on the board with a solo home run, the 450th of his career, in the 2nd inning. One inning later, Lowe gave himself a little more support, as he belted his first career home run, making it a 2-0 lead.
That was all Lowe and the Braves needed, as the veteran right-hander tossed 6 innings, allowing one run on three hits while striking out 6. He gave up a leadoff homer to Michael Morse in the 6th before being pulled for the trio of Eric O’Flaherty, Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel.
Each of the three pitched perfect frames, and Kimbrel blew a 100-mph fastball past Morse for the final out of the game, preserving the Braves 3-1 win and earning his 41st save of the year, setting a new rookie record. The previous mark was set in 2010 by Texas Ranger closer Neftali Feliz.
Dan Uggla provided the Braves third run, as he legged out an infield single with Martin Prado at third, allowing Prado to score. Diaz had two hits in his first game back in a Braves uniform.
With the Braves ending August with a 17-9 mark, they looked to start the final month of the season off the right way, and with Tim Hudson on the mound, the Braves were primed to do so.
The veteran got early run support, just as Lowe did the night before, thanks in part to solo homers from Brian McCann in the first and Chipper in the second. Erin Hinske added a run-scoring single, giving Hudson a 3-0 lead before he allowed a solo homer to Jayson Werth in the 6th.
Like Lowe before him, Hudson was on his game. The Auburn-product threw 6 innings, allowing one run on five hits while fanning five before handing the ball to the trio at the back end of the bullpen.
O’Flaherty pitched a perfect 7th, but Venters ran into a little trouble, allowing a run before escaping the inning and leaving the bases loaded, and Kimbrel locked down the 9th for his 42nd save of the year, and Hudson earned his 14th win of the season in the 5-2 victory
In the finale, Heyward was the only Brave to record a multi-hit game.
With the win, the Braves remain 7 1/2 games behind the division-leading Phillies, but continue to keep a healthy distance between themselves and the rest of the Wild Card pack, as the hold an 8 1/2 game lead over St. Louis, who have won their last 4, including a sweep of the Brewers.
Now, the Braves welcome the Los Angeles Dodgers to Turner Field for a three-game set. When the Braves visited the Dodgers in April, the Dodgers took three of four, as the Braves lone win came in the series’ second game, when the offense exploded for 10 runs, 8 of which came after the 7th inning.
With Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor starting the first two games, the Braves must sweep the Dodgers in order to prevent losing the season series for the first time since 2002. Fredi Gonzalez has not yet named a starter for Sunday’s afternoon finale.
The Dodgers counter with Chad Billingsley, Nate Eovaldi and Clayton Kershaw for the weekend set.