It would still take a horrific collapse by the Nationals to lose the division. Even if the weekend breathed life back into the Braves, the Nationals focused on their standing rather than on the wasted weekend. Manager Davey Johnson ambled through the clubhouse as players packed for home, spitting one-liners and drawing laughter.
“We’re fine,” third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. “We’ve put ourselves in a great position. We’ve played well all year, and we have two weeks left of playing baseball. Everything is right in front of us.”
With a chance to reverse momentum and state his case for a Cy Young Award, Gonzalez threw 110 pitches as he allowed two runs in five-plus innings on four hits and four walks. He limited damage and kept the Nationals in the game, but the Braves also wore him down enough to get to the Nationals’ bullpen in the sixth inning.
“I wasn’t pounding the strike zone,” Gonzalez said. “I was nipping the corners, trying to be too perfect. They’re scrappy. They’ll work a count.”
Left-handed pitchers have stymied the Braves most of this year; they entered Sunday 27-29 against them. Lately, though, they have managed to neutralize Gonzalez. In his last three starts against Atlanta, a possible playoff opponent, Gonzalez lasted five, five and 42
The Nationals brought the hottest offense in the National League here on Friday, and the Braves silenced it. The Nationals went scoreless at one point for a span of 12 innings, and they struck out 35 times in the three games while scoring six runs.
The Braves broke open Sunday’s game with three runs in the seventh inning, which they scored with only one hit. A leadoff walk, an error on Ryan Zimmerman and an RBI groundball scored the first run. The Nationals had given the Braves the game-winning run Saturday, and now they handed over an insurance run.
They were not done. Sean Burnett loaded the bases with an intentional walk of Chipper Jones and by hitting Freddie Freeman with a breaking ball. Dan Uggla provided the key blow, a two-run single to left field that gave Atlanta’s lights-out bullpen a four-run lead to protect.