Braves 13, Nationals 0
“I was coming up with guys on third and less than two outs, it seemed like every at-bat,” Jones said. “It makes my job easy when I can put the ball in play somewhere to the outfield.”
Jones drove in four runs to back a strong start from John Smoltz, helping the Atlanta Braves beat Washington 13-0 on Wednesday night and sweep a three-game series from the Nationals.
Atlanta had a season-high 22 hits and scored in six of the first seven innings, snapping out of an offensive slump that resulted last week in just one run during five straight home losses to Detroit and Boston. The Braves had their best offensive day since May 27, when they beat Philadelphia 13-6.
“I guess the question would be, ‘How ‘bout those bats?”’ Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. “If a team was ever due to break out, it was our team.”
The Nationals franchise hadn’t allowed this many hits since June 3, 2003, when the Montreal Expos lost to the Los Angeles Angels.
Escobar, starting at second in place of Kelly Johnson, had four hits and scored four runs, Francoeur finished 3-for-3 with three RBIs, and Renteria had three hits and drove in two runs.
“I’ve been waiting for a day like this because I’ve been hitting the ball good, but right at people,” Escobar said through an interpreter. “It was good to get four hits and play a solid game defensively.”
Smoltz (9-4) struck out seven and walked one, leaving for a pinch-runner in the fifth after throwing only 89 pitches.
The Braves had been outscored 14-2 in Smoltz’s four losses, but the 40-year-old right-hander finally got some run support. Atlanta scored one run in the bottom of the first, two more in the third and made it 7-0 on a walk and five consecutive singles in the fourth.
Smoltz knew that the Braves’ offense was the story on this night.
“I don’t have anything else to say,” he said. “I’ve got nothing.”
Smoltz also didn’t have anything to say about his recent spat with Jones. The two exchanged insults last week before both players met with Cox over the weekend and apologized. They blamed mutual frustration, but indicated that run production can solve almost any differences teammates might have with each other.
“It’s one thing to get base hits and set the table, but hitting in the middle of the lineup you’re thinking to drive in runs,” Jones said. “I was hitting below .200 (with runners in scoring position) coming into tonight. I’ve got to thank the guys in front of me.”
“We’ve been on the bottom of every offensive category from the start of the season,” Nationals manager Manny Acta said. “Why should I be complaining now? We have to keep on looking for ways to make the club better.”
Washington had won the past seven games that Micah Bowie (4-3) had started, but Atlanta knocked him around early—then right out of the game in the fourth inning on Escobar’s liner off his shin.
The left-hander allowed nine hits, six runs, two walks and struck out two in 3 1-3 innings. His last loss was in relief at Milwaukee on May 9, and saw his ERA balloon from 3.63 to 4.39.
“This isn’t the first team I’ve broken out of a slump,” Bowie said. “I’ve done it throughout my career. They got a lot of balls to hit, and they hit them.
“I got my butt kicked. Every time I made a mistake, it showed up on the board.”
Braves CF Andruw Jones’ season-long slump continued as he grounded into a double play in the first and popped out on a sacrifice attempt in the third. He had an RBI single in the fourth and finished 1-for-4 to keep his average at .199 … With an open date Thursday, Atlanta will stay with the current lineup of LHP Chuck James, RHP Tim Hudson and RHP Buddy Carlyle this weekend at Florida. Smoltz will start the first of a four-game series Monday against the Dodgers in Los Angeles. … Washington’s 40-man roster stands at 35 after RHP Beltran Perez was sent to Double-A Harrisburg.