Don’t you just love Major League Baseball fans? I mean the really good fanatical type of fan that would look at the Atlanta Braves’ 15-inning loss to the Washington Nationals on Saturday as a sign of weakness. These are the fans that pay attention only to their own passion and not the facts of the situation; but don’t you just love them? I do but then at times I am one. Let’s look at the facts of this so-called ‘heated rivalry’ between the Nats and the Braves.
First of all we’ll look at Saturday. This is actually one of those games that you can’t really take much away from because of all the strange happenings. Mike Minor and Stephen Strasburg are arguably their teams best pitchers and yet they combined for just a little over 2 innings with Strasburg being thrown out for apparently forgetting he wasn’t playing wiffle ball on the fourth grade playground.
All of that aside, a game that is basically left up to the bullpens isn’t the best indicator of a team’s strengths or weaknesses unless one is looking only at the ‘pens, in which case they both did alright with the Braves’ bullpen faring better. Remember it was actually a starter that gave up the winning home run. The Braves’ ‘pen did quite well and only gave up three runs.
From there we can look at the way the Nationals had a 6 – 2 lead at one point in the game and then a 7 – 4 lead going to the bottom of the eighth inning. The fact that the Braves scored three runs in the final two innings of regulation to tie the game is a sign of weakness? Um, no sorry it isn’t. In fact it is quite the opposite. The Braves showed strength coming back from that far down to tie while the Nationals showed with their inability to put the game away that they should be 15.5 games out of first place. Oh, wait… they are.
Sunday’s game between these two makes it even clearer. The Nationals threw one of their other best pitchers in Gio Gonzalez against Braves’ young arm Julio Teheran. The Braves manager showed the difference between these two teams with the starting line-ups. Outfield starters were Evan Gattis, B.J. Upton (who actually isn’t a regular starter for the time being) and Joey Terdoslavich. The absolute best shortstop in baseball Andrelton Simmons wasn’t playing and of course Dan Uggla is on the disabled list.
The Braves got the win anyway in large part without input from Simmons, Brian McCann, Jason Heyward and Justin Upton. These two teams have now met 15 times this season. The Braves have won 11 of those contests. There is no rivalry to speak of. Possibly there could be some professional jealousy from the Nats who see the Braves taking what was their spot, but there is no rivalry. The Nats beat the Braves now and then. Hey, so do the Miami Marlins. The New York Mets have played .500 ball against the Braves in 14 games, so they are actually much more a challenge. Hard feelings there may be but there is no rivalry as far as the division goes. Most of that is media fluff.