Bryce Harper seems to be a magnet for the Braves' angst.
After being hit twice in the series opener and being held out of the starting lineup Saturday, Harper figures to be back Sunday to face Julio Teheran for the first time since being plunked by him earlier this month.
Atlanta (75-48) owns the best record in baseball and is cruising to an NL East title, sitting 14 1/2 games ahead of Washington (60-62). Despite that gap in the standings, the Braves and Nationals continue to stoke their growing rivalry by throwing at each other.
The Braves have won 11 of 15 games in the season series and have hit the Nationals five times, with Washington returning the favor with five of its own.
Harper has been on the receiving end of three of those pitches this month, doubling his career total. The reigning NL Rookie of the Year was plunked twice in Friday's 3-2 loss and suffered a left triceps injury when he was hit by Luis Avilan , who exited the game to a standing ovation from the Turner Field crowd.
Prior to Saturday's game, Nationals manager Davey Johnson denied that he'd seek retribution for Harper being hit.
"I never ordered a pitcher to go after anybody, but we have a way of protecting our own," Johnson told the team's official website.
Johnson scratched Harper from the lineup Saturday before Washington went on to defeat the Braves 8-7 in 15 innings on Adam LaRoche 's solo homer.
Johnson, however, wasn't in the dugout to see the end. He was ejected with starter Stephen Strasburg , who threw back-to-back pitches behind Andrelton Simmons ' back. That came after Strasburg hit Justin Upton following Jason Heyward 's homer.
Johnson denied that Strasburg was throwing at Simmons intentionally, but conceded that he may have been trying to hit Upton.
"It didn't look like he was trying to hit (Simmons). He couldn't find the strike zone," Johnson said. "Well after somebody goes deep and you hit him in the rear end, I don't think it's a big deal."
Harper wound up coming in to play left field in the ninth inning and went 0 for 2 in extras.
Assuming he's back in the starting lineup Sunday, he'll face Teheran (9-6, 3.08 ERA), who leads the NL with 12 hit batters. One of them was Harper on Aug. 6, two innings after Harper went deep in a 2-1 Atlanta victory. Harper jawed at Teheran after the incident, and the benches cleared but no punches were thrown.
The animosity even spilled over to the teams' Twitter accounts, which exchanged barbs.
Teheran has allowed Harper to go 3 for 7 with a double and two homers.
The right-hander was 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA in his first four starts after the All-Star break, but gave up four runs in six innings of Monday's 5-1 loss to Philadelphia.
The Nationals will again counter with Gio Gonzalez (7-5, 3.42).
The left-hander allowed two runs in seven innings Aug. 6, but also hit Freddie Freeman with a pitch an inning before Harper was plunked.
Gonzalez found himself embroiled in another incident Tuesday. That one, however, was with teammate Jayson Werth , and the two jawed after Gonzalez was late covering first in the opening inning.
Gonzalez's outing ended after a prolonged rain delay, limiting him to four scoreless innings in a 4-2 win over San Francisco. It was his fifth straight start without a win, and he has an 0-2 record and 5.19 ERA over that stretch.
The offense has backed him with just one run in four of those outings.
|August 17, 2013||Taylor Jordan||15-Day DL||Lower back strain|
|August 13, 2013||Wilson Ramos||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained left hamstring|
|August 11, 2013||Jayson Werth||Day-to-Day||Right knee|
|August 01, 2013||Ross Ohlendorf||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|July 24, 2013||Ian Desmond||Day-to-Day||Blister|
|July 24, 2013||Bryce Harper||Day-to-Day||Left knee soreness|
|August 15, 2013||Tyler Pastornicky||15-Day DL||Torn left ACL - out for season|
|August 13, 2013||Dan Uggla||15-Day DL||Eye surgery|
|August 06, 2013||Jason Heyward||Day-to-Day||Strained neck|
|July 29, 2013||Reed Johnson||15-Day DL||Left knee tendinitis|
|July 26, 2013||Gerald Laird||15-Day DL||Kidney stone|
|July 26, 2013||Gerald Laird||15-Day DL||Kidney stone|
ATLANTA (AP) -- Julio Teheran 's ability to work through trouble impressed manager Fredi Gonzalez, who said it's more proof of the young right-hander's added maturity in his breakout season.
Teheran made it through six scoreless innings and a tired Atlanta bullpen held on as the Braves beat the Washington Nationals 2-1 on Sunday.
The Braves won two of three in the series and stretched their NL East lead over the second-place Nationals to 15 1/2 games.
Both teams exhausted their bullpens in the Nationals' 8-7 win in 15 innings on Saturday night, making it important for the Braves that Teheran protect Atlanta's relievers as long as possible. The Nationals had two runners with no outs in each of the first three innings, putting a strain on Teheran's pitch count and making Gonzalez nervous in the Atlanta dugout.
"I'm thinking he's right at 60 pitches in three innings and you know your bullpen is spent," Gonzalez said. "You're thinking man, oh man. He did a nice job getting us through the sixth. Once he got us through six we were thinking we've got a shot here with the guys we have."
Four Atlanta relievers combined to preserve the win for Teheran (10-6).
Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 39th save. After Denard Span reached on an infield hit, Kimbrel struck out Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper to finish it.
The game ended when third base umpire Marvin Hudson ruled Harper went around on an attempted check swing.
It was another frustrating moment in a long season for the Nationals, who have lost three of four after five straight wins.
"I think in that situation you can't really call that," Harper said. "Especially when the home plate umpire says `No' about three times and doesn't want to check. They obviously check and they bang me. That's one less pitch I get to see against him.
"Kimbrel's a great closer. I think trying to see as many pitches as you can against him is huge. The deeper I get in the count makes me stronger."
Harper, who had two hits, said he didn't mind being booed before every at-bat during the series.
"I love these fans," Harper said. "These people, they're absolutely unbelievably amped up for their team."
Freddie Freeman and Chris Johnson hit RBI singles off Gio Gonzalez (7-6) in the first. Gonzalez gave up only two hits and no runs in the next six innings.
Teheran had baserunners reach second in five of his six innings. He retired the Nationals in order only in the fourth.
Teheran gave up five hits with three walks as the Nationals stranded nine runners in his six innings.
"I know anytime I got in trouble like that I stay confident," Teheran said, adding he wanted to make it deeper in the game.
There was no sign of the tensions between the teams that began when both benches emptied after Teheran hit Harper in a Braves win at Washington on Aug. 6.
Braves pitchers hit Harper with two pitches in Atlanta's win on Friday night. Washington's Stephen Strasburg hit Justin Upton in the first inning on Saturday night and was ejected after throwing two straight pitches behind Andrelton Simmons ' back.
There was no reaction from the umpires or the Nationals on Sunday when Teheran, who often pitches inside, hit Rendon to open the third. Teheran leads the National League with 13 hit batters.
"It's over with," Gonzalez said of the friction. "It's two boys playing in the sandlot in the schoolyard. It's over with. I think both teams have respect for each other, obviously. There are a lot of good players on that club and we've got good players and I don't see anything going on the rest of the (season)."
Harper followed with a single but Teheran pitched out of trouble.
The Braves scored twice in the first. B.J. Upton walked and stole second. Rookie second baseman Phil Gosselin , making his first start in the majors, reached on a bunt single for his first hit. Freeman and Johnson singled home runs.
The Nationals broke through for a seventh-inning run off Scott Downs and David Carpenter , with Jayson Werth hitting an RBI single.
NOTES: Simmons, Brian McCann , Jason Heyward and Justin Upton were out of the starting lineup for rest. Heyward and Simmons entered the game as defensive replacements. ... The start of the game was delayed by rain for 39 minutes. ... Werth started following pregame concerns about tightness in his lower back. His seventh-inning single extended his hitting streak to 10 games. ... The Braves adjusted their rotation for their upcoming series at the Mets after being forced to use starter Kris Medlen in relief Saturday night. RHP Brandon Beachy will take Medlen's scheduled start on Tuesday night in New York. LHP Alex Wood also moves up one day for Wednesday's start. ... Saturday night's game lasted 5 hours, 29 minutes, the longest in the Nationals' nine-year history. ... Braves LHP Paul Maholm , on the 15-day DL with a bruised left wrist, allowed four hits and one run in 5 2-3 innings in a rehab start for Class A Rome on Saturday.