After Evan Gattis homered in the top of the fifth inning, reminding a sellout crowd at Nationals Park of why he warranted a splendid nickname as a rookie, the home team had a would-be inside-the-park home run overturned by an umpires’ review in the bottom of the inning. And so, things were going the Braves’ way again in the first of 19 games between the National League East rivals. The Nationals did tie the score on Ryan Zimmerman’s sacrifice fly in the sixth inning, but Chris Johnson’s sacrifice fly in the eighth lifted the Braves to a 2-1 win in a series opener that saw the Braves get another strong pitching performance from an unheralded starter, rookie David Hale. Johnson also homered for the only run in the Braves’ series-finale win Wednesday at Milwaukee. Craig Kimbrel struck out two in a perfect ninth inning to record his third consecutive save, and the Braves (3-1) matched the Nationals’ record through four games. Hale allowed five hits and two walks in five scoreless innings with four strikeouts against the Nationals, not earning a decision but getting plenty of appreciation for teammates while reducing his career ERA to 0.56 in three starts, with 18 strikeouts and three walks in 16 innings. Hale had been ill Wednesday and Thursday, but felt better by Friday morning. Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann had nine strikeouts with only one walk in five innings, but one of the four hits he allowed was Gattis’ leadoff homer in the sixth for a 1-0 lead. Gattis took a 92-mph fastball for a called strike on the first pitch, and when Zimmermann threw him the same thing on the same pitch, “El Oso Blanco” crushed it. It was a no-doubt-about it homer that sailed out of the ballpark in the same area as Gattis’ homer on a chest-high Stephen Strasburg fastball in the catcher’s rookie season.
Gattis homers in Braves’ 2-1 win over Nats to open series
Atlanta Journal-Constitution | Apr 5