Many of the Atlanta Braves‘ wins this season have been highlighted by home runs, and Monday’s road game against the Washington Nationals had one in the form of a solo home run by left fielder Justin Upton in the top of the eighth inning, but a great throw home and clutch relief pitching were what carried the Braves to a 3-2 win.
In the bottom of the first inning, a two-out double by Washington’s Adam LaRoche allowed Ian Desmond to score the first run of the game, but Atlanta right fielder Jason Heyward quickly gathered the ball after it bounced off the fence and threw it to shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who gunned down Wilson Ramos at the plate to end the inning
Simmons’s assist came just one night after he blocked out a runner at second base and slapped a tag on him to record a key out in the Braves’ 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies, which was their 10th straight triumph and third consecutive series sweep.
Later in the game, Braves starting pitcher Mike Minor was lifted after allowing a leadoff double to Scott Hairston in the bottom of the seventh inning. At the time, the game was tied 2-2, so having a runner aboard with no outs was huge.
Enter Braves reliever David Carpenter, who finished the inning by striking out Jayson Werth, getting Bryce Harper to line out and inducing a groundout of Desmond before also retiring the first two batters in the bottom of the eighth, leading to his third win of the season.
It was just the latest example of an Atlanta bullpen that has been the best in MLB — thanks in part to the work of the 28-year-old Carpenter, who is enjoying the best year of his career, having pitched 42.2 innings across 30 appearances, posting a 1.90 ERA, striking out 48 batters and issuing 15 walks.
The usual suspects contributed on offense — with first baseman Freddie Freeman tallying a pair of RBI singles in addition to Upton’s bomb — but on this night, it was what the Braves did in the field and on the mound that really made the difference.