Atlanta Braves: Unexpected Heroes Lead Braves to Emotional Win in DC
The Atlanta Braves' hot start to the season has received plenty of attention due to the offensive output of offseason acquisition Justin Upton and Evan Gattis, who has backed up the spring training hype with a strong start.
But on Friday night at Nationals Park, it was the role players who stepped up and made key plays in the Braves' 6-4 comeback win over the Nationals.
The battle of NL East titans began with the Nationals getting out to a strong start by way of a Bryce Harper two-run homer in the first and RBI singles by Jayson Werth and Denard Span in the second.
With Ross Detweiler hurling a gem on the mound for the hosts, the chances of a Braves comeback were slim to none, until the seventh inning began.
Although it was just a single run, Chris Johnson gave the Braves a sense of belief with his first home run of the season.
The eighth inning brought the Nationals bullpen into the game as the usually reliable Tyler Clippard took the rubber.
The Braves were able to pull back another run in the eighth due to a quality that they may not have been known for at the beginning of the season—their patience.
Gattis, Jason Heyward and B.J. Upton worked their at-bats into walks with Upton's free pass bringing home Heyward.
The true superstars of the team then took a step back in the ninth inning as Ramiro Pena and Blake DeWitt dropped down two consecutive pinch-hit bunts.
Pena, who hit for starting catcher Gerald Laird, laid down a perfect bunt in front of home plate on the third base side to become the second batter to reach base against Drew Storen in the ninth.
DeWitt then came to the plate to pinch hit for reliever Jordan Walden and dropped down an immaculate sacrifice that sent Johnson to third and Pena to second.
Without those two crucial bunts the Braves would not have been able to capitalize on Ryan Zimmerman's error three batters later.
After one of the unsung heroes of the bullpen, Eric O'Flaherty, shut down the Nationals in the bottom of the ninth, the most unexpected of at-bats occurred in the top of the 10th inning.
Pena, who had 12 at-bats this season going into Friday, delivered the 14th home run of his nine-year professional career with a shot over the right field wall.
Pena's two-run, game-winning home run sent the Braves dugout into an absolute uproar. The home run also marked the end of an unlikely comeback that sent shock waves throughout the Washington D.C. metro area and the entire nation.
There are few things that we can predict throughout the course of the season, but if the role players continue to step up for Atlanta this season, a spot in the postseason is close to a guarantee.
Follow me on Twitter, @JTansey90.
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