Braves outhomered in final spring tilt with Nats
Gattis, Laird go deep; Rodriguez allows four of rivals' six long balls
VIERA, Fla. -- In the final Grapefruit League meeting of two National League East heavyweights who figure to duke it out for the division title this year, the Nationals blew by the Braves, 11-2, on Wednesday afternoon at Space Coast Stadium.
Washington hit five homers in the first five innings, and six overall -- led by three from Ryan Zimmerman -- against a hodgepodge of Atlanta relievers. Evan Gattis -- who found out he was added to the Braves' Opening Day roster earlier Wednesday -- hit his sixth homer of the spring, while Ramiro Pena went 3-for-3 and Gerald Laird added a homer of his own in a back-to-back effort with Gattis.
Leadoff home runs for the Nationals in the bottom of the third (Wilson Ramos' first of the spring) and the fourth (Zimmerman's second) helped give the Nationals a 3-0 lead early against Atlanta's Daniel Rodriguez.
Washington continued to pour it on against Rodriguez in the fourth, as the first seven batters of the inning reached. Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond walked before Danny Espinosa drove in a run with a double. Desmond and Espinosa then scored on Ramos' second homer of the game, a long three-run shot to left field. Tyler Moore followed with another long ball to left for an 8-0 lead, ending Rodriguez's afternoon.
Zimmerman also led off the fifth with a solo shot off Atlanta's Cristhian Martinez, and added his third of the game, and fourth of the spring, with a two-run blast off Dusty Hughes in the seventh.
Rodriguez finished after two innings, having allowed six hits, eight runs (all earned), five walks, four home runs and striking out none. His spring ERA ballooned to 16.43.
Meanwhile, Nationals starter Ross Detwiler cruised through five shutout innings before Gattis' deep shot to left got the Braves on the board in the top of the sixth. He was followed by Laird, who also went yard to left, for his first home run of the spring. Detwiler lasted 5 1/3 innings, striking out two and walking one while giving up the two runs. He will have nine days off before pitching against the Reds on April 6.
Braves reliever Eric O'Flaherty started the game for Atlanta, getting in a shutout inning before handing it over to Rodriguez, who was originally scheduled to start.
Up next for the Braves: The Braves will conclude the Florida portion of their spring season when they host a split-squad Astros team at Champion Stadium on Thursday afternoon, live on Gameday Audio at 1:05 p.m. ET. Paul Maholm will start and attempt to complete at least four innings in preparation for his April 3 regular-season debut against the Phillies. Manager Fredi Gonzalez plans to allow most of his projected position players to record at least two at-bats.