Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Nats pounce in 7th to derail Braves, Norris

Wilson Ramos' two-out chopper led to a couple of defensive mistakes that spoiled Bud Norris' otherwise impressive Braves debut and enabled the Nationals to complete a two-game season-opening sweep with a 3-1 win on Wednesday night at Turner Field.
Matt den Dekker capped Washington's three-run seventh with a two-run double, but he would not have had the pinch-hit opportunity had the Braves not added to the defensive mistakes that cost them on Opening Day. Shortstop Erick Aybar grabbed Ramos' chopper and made an off-balance and off-target throw to Freddie Freeman, who then saw his relay throw to prevent Ryan Zimmerman from scoring from second base elude catcher A.J. Pierzynski's glove.
While Pierzynski's fourth-inning single accounted for the only costly damage Stephen Strasburg sustained over six innings, Norris had allowed just one Nationals baserunner to reach second base before the seventh frame.
"[Norris] pitched tremendous," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We didn't make a play there, and they scored three runs. They should be all unearned runs, for me."
den Dekker comes through in a pinch: On the day he was called up from Triple-A Syracuse, den Dekker broke a 1-1 tie by hitting a two-run, pinch-hit double, scoring Ramos and Danny Espinosa.
"It felt great to help the team win," den Dekker said. "It's good to be back here with the team. Coming here with a bunch of guys who are welcoming, it makes it easy for me to come out here and do stuff like that."
So far, so good: Given that Norris posted a 6.79 ERA in the 11 starts he made before being released by the Orioles last year, the Braves took a gamble when they signed him to a one-year, $2.5 million deal in December. But the right-hander made a good first impression as he limited the Nationals to four hits before his defense squandered the effort and a 1-0 lead.
Strasburg solid: In his first start of the season, Strasburg pitched six innings, allowed one run on six hits and struck out four batters. He also put himself in the record books by becoming the all-time club leader in strikeouts with 905. Strasburg struck out Norris in the third inning to break the record set by Jordan ZimmermannMore >
"Yeah, it's pretty cool," Strasburg said about the record. "I don't know how long it will last. It's cool to get the ball and add it to the collection."
Doubly impressive grab: Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte aided Norris' effort in the fourth inning, when he ranged far into right-center field to make a diving catch of Zimmerman's sinking liner and then throwing to first base to double up Bryce Harper, who had rounded second base before the catch was made. More >
"It was good I was able to make that play, but it never feels good when you don't win," Inciarte said.
"He just got off the plane and came through for us. Man, that was something. ... He came through with a big, big hit. That was huge because that was a close game. Both pitchers [Strasburg and Norris] were dealing. We got a couple of guys thrown out, they got a couple of guys thrown out. It wasn't really a game you could teach the kids about baserunning." --Nationals manager Dusty Baker on den Dekker 
The Nationals have won 23 of the past 32 games played against the Braves, dating back to June 21, 2014. Atlanta won 24 of the 31 games played against Washington from Aug. 22, 2012, through June 20, 2014.
Nationals: The club returns to Nationals Park to play its home opener against the Marlins at 4:05 p.m. ET. Tanner Roark gets the start against Miami. He has a 3.32 ERA in 12 appearances against the Marlins. Roark was productive during Spring Training, allowing four runs in 18 innings (2.00 ERA) with 17 strikeouts.
Braves: Matt Wisler will make his season debut when Atlanta begins a three-game series against the Cardinals on Friday at 7:35 p.m. ET. Wisler refined his changeup with Hall of Famer Tom Glavine's assistance this past winter and impressed Atlanta's coaches with the enhanced mound presence he showed during Spring Training.

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