Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Tommy Hanson started out with what very well could have been a nightmare of an outing, but he quickly settled in, and, with the help of a clutch hit from Jason Heyward, led the Braves to a series split with the Washington Nationals via a big 3-2 win.
Hanson started the game reminiscent of his 3 1/3-inning performance last Monday against the St. Louis Cardinals when he allowed back-to-back homers to Steve Lombardozzi and Bryce Harper to start the game. The homers gave Hanson four homers allowed in a span of nine plate appearances, but he buckled down and largely shut down the Nationals offense over seven innings.
"Tommy kept us in the game, and that's huge for him," David Ross said. "They have some good hitters. They're going to put the ball in play, and they're going to hit some home runs. Fortunately enough, he was able to calm down after that and shut them down the rest of the way."
Hanson would go on to strike out six and walk none, giving up only four more hits. He got around a Danny Espinosa double in the fourth and was helped out when Harper tried stretch a double into a triple in the fifth inning. Heyward and Andrelton Simmons both made strong throws to cut down the attempted triple.
The Braves would get a run back in the third inning when Dan Uggla doubled off Gio Gonzalez to score Martin Prado. They would then capitalize on mistakes Gonzalez would make in the fifth inning to take the lead.
The southpaw was not diligent in covering first base on an infield single by Michael Bourn. He followed that with a wild pitch and a two-out walk to Matt Diaz to load the bases. That set up Heyward's two-run single to left field.
"Every time you have confidence," Heyward said. "I want to be in that situation every time. All I can do is go up there and battle and give myself the best opportunity. After that, everything is out of my hands."
Heyward needed the confidence boost, too. After a strong start to the season, he had hit just .194 in his last 35 games was two for his previous 29 at-bats against lefties.
The seven hits Gonzalez surrendered in his 4 2/3 innings were a season high just a week after he held the Braves to one hit over seven innings.
Eric O'Flaherty threw a scoreless eighth inning, even though he walked two batters. Craig Kimbrel struck out the side in order in the ninth for his 16th save.
The win was Atlanta's third in four games since losing eight straight, inching them to two games back of a three-way tie between the Nationals, Miami Marlins and New York Mets for the National League East.
The Braves get yet another off day Monday before starting a three-game set in Miami in what could be a battle for first place.
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