ATLANTA -- Justin Upton has spent the past few days proving he is up to the task of helping Freddie Freeman carry the load for Atlanta. But he was far from the only Braves player who backed Alex Wood's determined effort in Saturday night's 6-3 win over the Nationals at Turner Field.
The Braves have won 17 of the 24 games played against the Nationals dating back to the start of last year. Atlanta, which will be bidding for a three-game sweep on Sunday, has won both of the first two series played between these two National League East rivals this year.
Freeman, Evan Gattis and Upton all recorded three-hit nights as the Braves matched the season-high hit total they had produced against the Nationals exactly one week earlier. Freeman's eighth-inning solo homer helped provide some cushion for Craig Kimbrel, who closed things out after the Nationals tallied single runs in the sixth and eighth innings against Atlanta's bullpen.
Upton produced his third consecutive three-hit performance and delivered one of the three extra-base hits that doomed Nationals starter Taylor Jordan during a four-run first inning. His older brother B.J. Upton fueled that early eruption with a solo home run that highlighted his second two-hit game of this young season.
Like B.J. Upton, who entered the game with a .135 batting average , Dan Uggla also provided some encouraging signs with a two-hit performance that included RBI singles in the first and fifth innings. Uggla entered the game with a .162 batting average and in the midst of an 0-for-10 skid.
Since scoring 15 runs through their first seven games, the Braves have totaled 20 runs in the four games that have followed. This surge has been primarily sparked by Justin Upton, who has nine hits, including three home runs and two doubles, in 11 at-bats over the past three games.
This latest offensive flurry was much welcomed by Wood, who struggled with his command as he limited the Nationals to one run but needed 103 pitches to complete five innings. Anthony Rendon's leadoff homer accounted for that lone run surrendered by Wood.
The three home runs Wood has allowed through his first three starts match the total he surrendered in 77 2/3 innings as a rookie last year. Each of these home runs have been hit at the start of an inning, and Rendon's was the first that was not hit on the first pitch.
Wood stranded a pair of runners when he ended the third inning with consecutive strikeouts against Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond. After allowing two on with none out in the fourth inning, Atlanta's 23-year-old left-hander escaped unscathed when Bryce Harper got caught too far off second base after Jordan struck out while attempting a sacrifice bunt.
The Nationals squandered another fifth-inning rally attempt when Wood picked Ryan Zimmerman off second base, with Zimmerman exiting after an injury on the play. Moments later, Wood notched his eighth and final strikeout of the night by getting LaRoche to look at a called third strike.