Atlanta Braves Send Message to Washington Nationals with Walk-off Win
It's become somewhat of an expectation for Braves Country that good things happen when Kris Medlen takes the mound.
And with an ERA of 0.86 and 66 strikeouts in 62.2 innings pitched since joining the starting rotation, Medlen has certainly made many good things happen for the Braves. In fact, Atlanta has won each of the last 20 games that Medlen has started, a feat last replicated by Roger Clemens in 2001after donning the Yankee pinstripes.
It should come as no surprise then, that when Medlen calmly strode to the mound against the Nationals, who have taken 10 of 15 games against the Braves this year, he would set the tone of the series in a commanding fashion.
Medlen took one look at Jayson Werth digging in on Friday night and decided that he didn't care about Washington's 8.5-game stranglehold on the division, or even that the Braves were just swept by the red-hot Brewers—so he struck him out.
Then he struck out 12 more Nationals over the course of seven innings; the lone blemish on his night a solo-homer to Bryce Harper, leaving the bullpen to tend to the one-one deadlock.
Craig Kimbrel was brought in to slam the door on the Nationals' hopes of pushing ahead in the ninth inning and almost tied a record, striking out Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond, and Danny Espinosa on three, three, and four pitches, respectively.
In the home half of the ninth inning, Andrelton Simmons provided the offensive lift that the Braves had been missing for the past few months by igniting a rally with an infield single and advancing to third on a Michael Bourn flare to right.
With runners at the corners and one out, Tyler Pastornicky rolled over a Sean Burnett sinker, and Ian Desmond came up with the grounder cleanly. However, Desmond was unable to make a good throw to home, the error allowing the winning run in Simmons to score.
In this sequence is a biting irony in how the seemingly superior shortstop (Desmond) was outplayed both offensively and defensively by his rookie counterpart (Simmons), who came up big for the Braves when a big moment was needed the most.
It's just one game, but like Chipper Jones' walk-off against the Phillies earlier this month, this game could mean a lot to the Braves when the postseason rolls around. In just nine innings, many statements were made by the Braves.
Kris Medlen let Washington know that he can match any pitcher the Nationals throw at him. Craig Kimbrel asserted that he is utterly dominant and completely untouchable: a true ninth-inning stopper. Eric O'Flaherty proved to not be impressed by Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper, and Ryan Zimmerman, handling the top of the order in the eighth inning in just 12 pitches.
Martin Prado showed that he will eat Nationals pitching alive, ripping off three hits in his four at bats. Andrelton Simmons reminded the Nationals that with him in the lineup, the Braves play invigorated and the lineup has no holes.
Finally, with a ground-out, hard-fought, well-earned walk-off win, the Braves sent a very clear message to the Nationals on Friday night: "We are not going away. We'll see you in October."
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