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Nats-Braves rivalry doesn’t disappoint in first meeting of 2014

Apr 5, 2014, 1:41 PM EST

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

Friday’s home opener for the Nationals brought much of what we’ve come to expect from the budding rivalry between Washington and the Atlanta Braves. There was great pitching (despite both starters battling illness), it came down to the final at-bat, and there was a good deal of controversy.

Though it was just one game, it felt like a preview of much more to come in the 2014 season. These two teams are on a collision course as they battle for the National League East division title. Whoever wins, it will probably come down to the final week of September, and a lot of games just like Friday’s.

There’s going to be some close ones,” Adam LaRoche said. “That’s nothing new, we’ve had that a lot in the past. It seems like every time we play these guys, if it’s not extra innings, it’s really close games.”

“They’re always big games against these guys,” Jordan Zimmermann said. “It’s going to be a battle every time and there are going to be close games like this. Hopefully we come out on top for most of them.”

In 2012 the Nationals were the division champs with a MLB-best 98 wins, but last year the Braves broke through and took the division with a record of 96-66.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said his team knows it will be a fight to the finish, no matter who is the defending champions.

“Last year was last year. You get a nice pat on the back and it’s over with. Every series is important. I know we play them six different series, every series is important. It doesn’t matter whether it’s April or September.”

The Braves took the first of 19 meetings this season in Friday’s 2-1 game at Nationals Park. It was a sellout crowd of 42,834 and a great audience for a wild game.

Braves outfielder Justin Upton was involved in a controversial play in the fifth inning when a ball hit to his area was first ruled an inside-the-park home run for Ian Desmond before a manager’s challenge overturned it into a ground-rule double. Upton was then booed every time he stepped to the plate or made a play in the outfield.

“It was kind of amusing, because I thought I made the right play,” Upton said. “It’s always fun. The crowds are good, everybody’s in to it. There’s a lot of energy so we enjoy it.”

Right fielder Jason Heyward said the rivalry is there because the teams are similar in the young talent on their rosters.

“This division is very good baseball, very competitive baseball. There’s a lot of good pitching, a lot of good hitters. You see a lot of rosters that have at least two or three guys that could be MVP candidates. You also see a lot of rosters with guys who could be Cy Young pitchers. It’s a fun division. It’s really competitive. Games like that, they bring the best out of everybody.”

Each team brought new players into the rivalry this offseason. For the Braves, both Brian McCann and Tim Hudson left via free agency. They also acquired Ervin Santana, Ryan Doumit and promoted several pitchers from their minor league system.

The Nationals beefed up their bench and added Doug Fister and Jose Lobaton through trades. The core players remain the same for each team, but there are new faces.

“We gotta figure out each other,” Ian Desmond said. “They’ve got some new pieces, we’ve got some new pieces. It’s going to be fun all year and that was definitely a good ballgame.”

  1. Sonny G 10 - Apr 5, 2014 at 2:02 PM

    I like Desmond’s comment. I was afraid our boys would sink into the mentality that they just can’t beat the Braves. I so want to put it to the Barves this year. We need that egotistical strut against those boys.

    • davecydell - Apr 5, 2014 at 2:50 PM

      “We need that egotistical strut …”

      Exactly why Williams should have gone “toss me out” nuts over the Desmond issue, before and after the idiotic decision.

      He did not, I see that as a bad sign for leadership going forward. We will see.

      • sjm308 - Apr 5, 2014 at 3:25 PM

        Sure – he has been with these guys for two months now – they know his leadership style – what does ranting and raving about a call that the umps can’t change do as far as leadership??

        Leadership is shown in so many ways that a fan would not even get close enough to see.
        Leadership is what happens in the clubhouse after a tough loss
        Leadership is not making a scene on the field

      • Steady Eddie - Apr 5, 2014 at 4:06 PM

        Whatever MW could or couldn’t have done about the override review, getting tossed for a rant at these stupid umps would have been the worst possible thing he could have done. Going off at the umps in his fourth game as a MLB manager and he would start to develop a terrible rep with the umps that would do the Nats nothing but harm.

      • Sonny G 10 - Apr 5, 2014 at 4:31 PM

        IMO this was not a problem with the umps on the field. They called it like they saw it. The Barves had a right to call for a review and its the people in New York that are to blame for the overturned call. The umps have to go by what the NY ruling is. Thats how this review system works. Nothing MW can do on the field to alter the call.

  2. unterp - Apr 5, 2014 at 2:24 PM

    Probably the team with the least mistakes will win tonight. Go Nats…

    • NatsNut - Apr 5, 2014 at 6:14 PM


  3. letswin3 - Apr 5, 2014 at 3:03 PM

    I’m just hoping that Matty decides that there are times to project bravado (like maybe joining in the conversation, among the umps and Freddy, about the inside the park job by Desmond, instead of ceding the conversation to Freddy before watching them call New York for a decision), instead of showcasing his aggression agenda by encouraging base stealing without regard for the situation (Desi gets nailed at third with nobody out), and covering for his third base coach ( a rookie in the bigs, btw) for sending LaRoach from first on a stinking double ….. LaRoach is lucky he wasn’t tagged just as he cleared the bag at third. There is calculated aggression, and there is reckless aggression, but the two are simply not the same. “Run till they tag you” is a cute phrase, not a suggested strategy.

    • Sonny G 10 - Apr 5, 2014 at 4:33 PM

      LaRoach is lucky he didn’t pass out from the lack of oxygen trying to run so far. :)

  4. David Proctor - Apr 5, 2014 at 3:07 PM

    We have yet another lineup. I like this one.

    Chase Hughes ‏@chasehughesCSN 8m
    Harper back at 2nd: Span CF, Harper LF, Werth RF, LaRoche 1B, Zimmerman 3B, Desmond SS, Rendon 2B, Lobaton C, Strasburg P. #Nats

    • letswin3 - Apr 5, 2014 at 3:09 PM

      I guess he’s front-loading lefties, with 3 of the first 4 hitting from that side.

      • David Proctor - Apr 5, 2014 at 3:27 PM

        Harper is 5/10 with 2 doubles, 2 homer, a walk and an infamous HBP against Teheran. Maybe that factors in.

    • thenatom - Apr 5, 2014 at 3:29 PM

      Still trying to figure out LaRoche in the cleanup spot. His power is a dangerous weapon in the middle of the lineup but he makes too many outs and is too slow to be in front of two of our biggest run producers.

  5. Eric - Apr 5, 2014 at 3:30 PM

    What time do gates open? I’d love to get a shirt…





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