Game #27 Recap: Braves dominate Nationals as Gio Struggles

The rival Atlanta Braves made it look easy against the Nationals as Washington dropped their second game of the series in an 8-1 loss on Tuesday night.

The Nats were held in check by opposing pitcher Tim Hudson, who cruised for seven strong innings and earned his 200th career win.  

Nationals southpaw Gio Gonzalez never really found his rhythm against the Braves after a rocky first inning in which he threw 27 pitches.  In total, Gio would give up five runs on seven hits over just four innings.  However, it was the five walks issued that proved to be Gonzalez’s undoing.  The Nats bats were not able to put up a fight as the veteran Hudson made the Washington lineup look silly.

The very first batter Gio faced should have been a good indicator of how the night would turn out for the 2012 Cy Young Award runner-up.  On only the second pitch of the frame, Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons launched a 93-MPH fastball just over the left field wall, a solo blast that would open the scoring at 1-0.  

After walking slugger Justin Upton two batters later, Gio allowed a two-out double to catcher Evan Gattis, scoring Upton and pushing the Braves to an early 2-0 lead.  

Meanwhile, the National’s offense continued their inconsistency and were sat down in order through the first two innings

Despite trying to regroup during his second inning of work, Gonzalez continued to get himself into trouble.  Hudson led off the inning with a double and would eventually score on a single by third baseman Chris Johnson, giving the Braves a three-run lead.  

A wild pitch one batter later allowed Johnson to advance into scoring position.  

Atlanta continued to make Gio pay for his mistakes.

Another single, this time off the bat of first baseman Freddie Freeman, plated Johnson, giving the Braves a 4-0 lead after just two innings.  Even though Gonzalez was roughed up early on in the outing, he recorded five strikeouts in that span.

Both Gonzalez and right fielder Bryce Harper walked in the third and fourth innings respectively, but the Nats were unable to string together any type of rally to fight back against the Braves early offensive outburst.  

Rather, the Braves would keep tacking on runs.  In the fourth inning, Gattis tallied his second RBI of the game, cashing in Simmons after the shortstop reached base on a leadoff single.  Gattis’ second single would push the Braves lead to 5-0.

The fourth inning would be Gio’s last, after needing 95 pitches to get that far.  The short outing is frustrating for the Nats, who have seen their starting pitching improve as of late.  The outing is particularly discouraging for Gonzalez, who seemed to be in a groove during his last time out against the Cincinnati Reds,  when he only allowed one run over eight dominant innings.  

After Gio was lifted, the NL-East-leading Braves never looked back.  

The Nats scored their only run in the fifth inning.  After a leadoff double from left fielder Tyler Moore, an immediate groundout advanced him to third base.  Another groundout by Wilson Ramos, activated yesterday from the disabled list after rehabbing a hamstring injury, would score Moore, putting the Nats on the board and making the score 5-1.

But the Braves would not allow Washington to gain any momentum, as lefty long-reliever Zach Duke was not able to figure out the Braves offense either.  

In the Atlanta half of the fifth, the Braves scored another three runs off a solo-shot from Hudson (yup, the pitcher) and a two-run single by Freeman - his second and third RBIs of the game.  

The Nats would continue to miss opportunities to make any dent in the Atlanta lead.  

A leadoff single in the sixth inning by Denard Span would go to waste, as the Nats were set down in order.

A leadoff triple in the seventh by the scorching hot Ian Desmond would also go to waste, as the Nats grounded out sharply for the first out and then struck out twice to end the threat.  The Desmond triple would push the All-Star shortstop’s hitting streak to a season-best seven games.

Duke settled down in his next two innings of work and only allowed one baserunner while keeping the score at 8-1 Braves.

Reliever Anthony Varvaro replaced Hudson to face the Nats in the eighth and ninth innings.  He retired the side in order both times to secure Hudson’s milestone win.  

In looking for a silver lining in the discouraging loss against the division foe, it’s a challenge.  But it is a reassuring sign that notoriously wild reliever Henry Rodriguez pitched a scoreless eighth inning while only allowing one baserunner via a one out single.  

The Nats will have a chance to claim their first victory of the series when Mr. Consistent Jordan Zimmermann faces off against the tough Paul Maholm tomorrow night at Turner Field.

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