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What I Liked / Didn’t Like from the Nationals Three-Game stand at Turner Field

Game 1: 8-4 loss on Monday night (April 27)

Game 2: 13-12 win on Tuesday night (April 28)

Game 3: 13-4 win on Wednesday night (April 29)

What I liked:

1. The offensive explosions in Games 2 and 3 – The Nats totaled 26 runs, 30 hits and nine walks over the two games.  If the offense ends up being what we all thought it could be, these two games will be remembered as a turning point.

The Nats overcame a 9-1 third-inning deficit and a 10-2 fifth-inning deficit in Game 2, marking their biggest comeback victory since the franchise came to D.C.  The major blows included Jose Lobaton’s three-run homer in the fifth, Denard Span’s solo homer in the sixth, Dan Uggla’s two-run triple in the seventh and Uggla’s three-run homer in the ninth.  Span had five hits and 11 total bases.

The Nats then had 15 hits in scoring 13 runs for a second consecutive night in Game 3.  Span had a three-run homer, a double and an outfield assist.

Uggla had eight RBI in the series.  He had 10 RBI over 48 games last season with the Braves, who are reportedly paying him nearly $13 million this season not to play for them.

2. Jordan Zimmermann’s Game 3 start – Zimmermann allowed four runs (three earned) in seven innings, recording seven strikeouts versus eight hits and a walk.  He also had a go-ahead three-run single.

What I didn’t like:

1. Doug Fister’s Game 1 start – Fister allowed five runs (four earned) in 5 2/3 innings, giving up 10 hits and two walks.  It’s hard to say why, but Fister has not been himself so far this season.  He issued four walks in his second start and now has given up 10 runs (eight earned) over his last two starts.

2. A.J. Cole’s Game 2 start – Cole allowed nine runs (four earned) in two innings in his major-league debut, giving up nine hits, a wild pitch and an intentional walk.  He became just the 14th pitcher in major-league history to give up at least nine runs in his debut start.  And he had a major defensive miscue (see below).  Cole was optioned back to Triple-A Syracuse on Wednesday.

3. More embarrassing defense – The Nats committed four errors in Game 1.  Fister had two errors on pickoff throws.  One came in the fifth and set up a play in which Andrelton Simmons slid hard into third base and injured Yunel Escobar’s left hand.  Fister’s other error came in the Braves’ three-run sixth.  Ian Desmond had an error in the Braves’ two-run seventh.  Bryce Harper had an error during the Braves’ one-run first.

Cole had a missed-catch error in the Braves’ seven-run second in Game 2.

Uggla committed a throwing error in the Braves’ one-run third in Game 3.

4. Simmons’ slide into Escobar in Game 1 – Escobar was forced out of the game in the bottom of the fifth, getting cleated on the left hand on a hard slide by Simmons at third base.  The slide knocked Escobar’s glove completely off.  Rafael Martin hit Simmons with a pitch to begin the bottom of the seventh.

Harper and Desmond were both critical of Simmons for his slide.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez after the game: “I thought Simmons, he just slid a little late into third base, that’s all.  We all know and have seen him play, and sometimes he can slide a little crazy.  There was nothing malicious about it.  I’m surprised, really, with how they reacted.  But maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.”

My take: Danny Espinosa made a great throw to Escobar.  Simmons was out by a mile.  Did Simmons intend to injure Escobar?  No.  Did Simmons intend to knock the ball out of Escobar’s glove in order to be safe?  Yes.  Was the slide late and reckless?  Yes.  But the slide worked.

5. More shakiness from the bullpen – Four earned runs over 11 1/3 innings isn’t bad, but 11 hits and seven walks are.  And the state of flux continued, as the Nats 1) optioned reliever Rafael Martin to Triple-A Syracuse on Tuesday 2) recalled reliever Sammy Solis from Syracuse on Wednesday and 3) confirmed on Wednesday the signing of reliever Jose “Papa Grande” Valverde to a minor-league deal.

6. Reed Johnson getting injured in Game 2 – Johnson suffered a left calf strain, getting placed on the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday.

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