Instant analysis: Braves 5, Nats 4

Instant analysis: Braves 5, Nats 4
September 15, 2012, 11:31 pm
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Game in a nutshell: Less than 24 hours after a nip-and-tuck, tense ballgame to open this series, the two division rivals did it again, only this time with a bit of controversy thrown in for good measure. The Nationals jumped out to a 4-0 lead thanks to Adam LaRoche's 30th homer and some horribly sloppy Atlanta defense, but then gave all four runs back. Three of them were officially charged to Edwin Jackson; the other might as well have been charged to Marvin Hudson. The first base umpire blew a call on what appeared to be a routine 1-3 groundout, saying LaRoche's foot came off the bag. LaRoche protested, as did Davey Johnson, who earned his first ejection of the season. Moments later, Jason Heyward belted the game-tying home run, leaving this one knotted 4-4 heading into the late innings. That's when the Nationals bullpen imploded, with Ryan Mattheus issuing two walks to load the bases in the eighth and then grazing Andrelton Simmons with a 2-2 fastball to force across the go-ahead run. Craig Kimbrel then finished it off for another save, stranding the tying run on third base, sending the Nats to their second straight 1-run loss and dropping their lead in the NL East to 6 12 games.

Hitting lowlight: Given the way they stormed out of the gates to score four early runs, the Nationals looked to be in business. But their bats went silent after the second inning, unable to push another run across the plate against Tommy Hanson or the Atlanta bullpen. They didn't strike out nearly as many times as they did last night, but they did fail to make contact in some key spots. Danny Espinosa, in particular, struggled, whiffing three times (making him 0-for-7 with seven K's in the series) and stranding a runner on third with two outs in the third.

Pitching lowlight: Making his first career start in his hometown, Jackson was mostly in control. The only real mistakes he made through his first five innings were to Freddie Freeman, who tripled in the second and then homered in the fourth. But then came the blown call by Hudson to lead off the sixth, leading to Johnson's ejection, but perhaps more importantly a rattled Jackson. He immediately served up a two-run homer to Heyward, tying the game and completely changing the momentum of the game. On one hand, there was nothing Jackson could do about the blown call. On the other hand, a veteran of his stature has to be able to shake off adversity like that and refocus on the task at hand. Jackson wasn't able to, and because of it, he missed an opportunity to earn his 10th win of the season.

Key stat: There are now three big-league first basemen with 30 homers this season: Edwin Encarnacion, Albert Pujols and Adam LaRoche.

Up next: The series wraps up tomorrow night with a nationally televised showdown between the two division rivals. Gio Gonzalez seeks his 20th victory, with fellow lefty Mike Minor on the mound for Atlanta. First pitch is scheduled for 8:05 p.m. on ESPN.