May 9, 2015, 7:20 PM EST
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: The Nationals’ recipe for wins lately has included a heavy helping of home runs and good starting pitching. That trend continued on Saturday in the Nats’ 8-6 matinee win over the Atlanta Braves – their ninth victory in their last 11 games – though this one required a walk-off homer by Bryce Harper after their bullpen caved in the eighth inning.
Braves reliever Cody Martin allowed the walk-off bomb, Harper’s sixth homer in the last three games. The Nats are now above the .500 mark for the first time in the 2015 season at 16-15.
Jose Lobaton and Ryan Zimmerman smacked the early homers, Lobaton’s a two-run shot in the second inning and Zim’s a three-run bomb in the fifth. Those big hits gave Doug Fister a nice cushion as he carved up the Braves’ lineup on an efficient afternoon.
After Fister left the game, Aaron Barrett and Tanner Roark allowed the Braves to tie it up in the eighth inning. Barrett was handed three earned runs in the box score, but Roark allowed the game-tying double to Christian Bethancourt.
Braves starter Julio Teheran was not as sharp as Fister, as he was knocked around for six earned runs on 10 hits and three walks in five innings of work. Teheran now sports an ugly 4.74 ERA on the year after taking his second loss.
The Nationals clinched their fourth consecutive series win on Saturday and now have an opportunity for their first sweep of 2015 on Sunday.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: Zimmerman entered the day just 6-for-25 in the month of May with a .222/.279/.359 slash on the season. He was struggling, but the first baseman certainly didn’t look like it on Saturday. Zimmerman crushed a line drive to left field that bounced off the top of the fence in the bottom of the fifth inning.
The play was originally ruled a double before the umpires watch the replay and overturned the call. The big swing brought home Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper and extended the Nationals’ lead from 3-1 to 6-1.
The homer was Zimmerman’s first since April 13 and his third on the season. He now has 20 RBI, good for second on the team.
PITCHING LOWLIGHT: After a strong outing by Fister, Barrett and Tanner Roark combined to cough up a three-run lead in the eighth inning. Barrett began the inning by allowing singles to Andrelton Simmons and Freddie Freeman. Alberto Callaspo walked one batter later to load the bases. That convinced Matt Williams to call on Tanner Roark to face Jace Pederson.
Pederson bunted down the first base line and scored Simmons on a fielder’s choice. Christian Bethancourt then doubled to left-center to score two more and knot the game at 6-6. Barrett was charged with all three runs after entering the day with five consecutive scoreless outings.
KEY STAT: Fister hasn’t allowed a walk in 18 straight innings.
UP NEXT: The Nationals and Braves close their series on Mother’s Day with a 1:35 p.m. start. It will be another good pitching matchup with Jordan Zimmermann (2-2, 4.15) going up against Braves lefty Alex Wood (1-2, 4.32).
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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