ATLANTA -- As the Braves have progressed through the early days of this season, Preston Tucker, Ryan Flaherty and Shane Carle have provided a glimpse of the quality depth this team might have once it gets a little closer to full strength.Freddie Freeman might have delivered one of the biggest
ATLANTA -- As the Braves have progressed through the early days of this season, Preston Tucker, Ryan Flaherty and Shane Carle have provided a glimpse of the quality depth this team might have once it gets a little closer to full strength.
Freddie Freeman might have delivered one of the biggest blows when he was given a chance to swing the bat during Tuesday night's 13-6 win over the previously undefeated Nationals at SunTrust Park, but his three-run homer might not have been as encouraging from a long-term perspective as Tucker's big blast or Carle's quality relief innings after Julio Teheran was chased early.
"Making those acquisitions obviously turned out huge for us during the early part of this season," Freeman said. "Flaherty and [Tucker] have been absolutely huge. [Tucker] got us back in the game today. "
Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos built depth when he acquired Tucker and Carle after they were placed on waivers during the winter months. Atlanta signed Flaherty during the final day of Spring Training. Five games into the season, this trio has aided the team's 3-2 start and created reason to ponder how strong the bench might be once top prospect Ronald Acuna and Johan Camargo possibly join the lineup before the start of the next homestand.
"You don't know coming in, you don't know what to expect," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "It's a good thing because you can't have enough ballplayers, and these guys are really good, solid ballplayers. It's good to see these guys. I know it's early after five games, but I like the way we're going right now."
After Teheran spotted the Nationals a three-run first-inning lead, Tucker highlighted the Braves' four-run first with a three-run shot -- his first home run since he was with the Astros in 2016. The 27-year-old will likely not be the starting left fielder once Acuna arrives, possibly as early as April 14. But he has made the most of his opportunity by hitting .421 (8-for-19).
The Nationals had led at the end of each of the 36 innings they had played this season before Atlanta created this first-inning eruption. Pitcher A.J. Cole drilled his first career home run in the second inning, but he then allowed the Braves to score four runs in the bottom half. Freeman delivered the big blow with his three-run shot -- his second homer of the season.
Just 28 of the 93 pitches Freeman had seen entering Tuesday were within the strike zone per Statcast™. This 30.11 percentage ranked last among the 189 Major Leaguers who had seen at least 50 pitches.
"I'm ready to hit every single pitch," Freeman said. "I'm not doing anything different. I've been seeing the ball well the first five games. Believe me, I want to swing. They've been kind of nibbling. But the guys behind me have been knocking me in. So, I'm going to keep taking my walks and putting pressure on them on the bases, and we'll keep scoring runs."
Bryce Harper opened the third with his fourth homer of the season and his eighth against Teheran -- the most he has hit against any pitcher and the most the right-hander has surrendered to any batter. The Braves' Opening Day starter exited a few batters later, having allowed five earned runs over 2 1/3 innings.
Carle, the last pitcher given a spot on Atlanta's Opening Day roster, entered with the bases loaded and one out in the third. He escaped that jam unscathed and limited the Nationals to one hit over 3 1/3 scoreless innings for his first big league win.
"Shane with the three big innings for us was pretty much the game," Freeman said.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Adding on: Tucker's three-run homer gave the Braves an early lead. But given Teheran's struggles, his fourth-inning double, which positioned him to score on Dansby Swanson's single, was also a valuable contribution.
"The guy has been great," Snitker said. "He has done everything and more coming out of a big spring. You never know. Guys can sometimes come out of a hot spring like he had and it's a different story. But he keeps on keeping on."
Defensive save: After Carle silenced the Nats to build up an 11-5 lead, Sam Freeman allowed Washington to put two on with just one out in the seventh inning. But Ozzie Albies added to the value of his three-hit night by ending the threat. He began a double play with his diving grab of a Brian Goodwin liner that would have scored at least one run.
"I just play the game and whatever comes to me, I try to get the outs," Albies said. "Spectacular plays, you just try to get the outs."
"I'm not concerned at all because I thought he was really good on Opening Day. He was sharp and on point. He just kept missing his mark tonight. I'm not concerned at all. He'll bounce back. He'll watch video, have a side and be fine the next time out." -- Snitker, on Teheran
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Teheran allowed three home runs in just four of his first 138 career starts. He has now done so in five of the 26 starts that have followed.
Mike Foltynewicz will match up against Max Scherzer when the Braves and Nationals conclude their three-game series today at 12:10 p.m. ET. A pair of solo homers accounted for the only earned runs Foltynewicz surrendered in Friday's season debut against the Phillies.
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Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.