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Back to bench, Pena benefits from at-bats

MLB.com

ATLANTA -- When the Nationals appear on the schedule, Braves utility fielder Ramiro Pena puts the team on his shoulders. Since joining Atlanta to begin the 2013 season, Pena has hit .473 (9-for-19) with three home runs against Washington, including a three-run shot in Friday's 7-6 win in 10 innings.

"I didn't realize it until yesterday," Pena said ahead of Saturday's game. "They were like, 'Here are some stats.' And I was like, 'Oh.'"

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ATLANTA -- When the Nationals appear on the schedule, Braves utility fielder Ramiro Pena puts the team on his shoulders. Since joining Atlanta to begin the 2013 season, Pena has hit .473 (9-for-19) with three home runs against Washington, including a three-run shot in Friday's 7-6 win in 10 innings.

"I didn't realize it until yesterday," Pena said ahead of Saturday's game. "They were like, 'Here are some stats.' And I was like, 'Oh.'"

View Full Game Coverage

Given how 12 of the past 20 contests between the National League East rivals have been decided by one run, Pena's success takes on added importance. However, Pena's damage against the Nationals would have to be done from the bench Saturday.

Gold Glove shortstop Andrelton Simmons returned to the lineup after missing two games with a jammed right wrist. Despite returning to the bench after back-to-back starts, Pena said the starts helped him develop "good rhythm" both at the plate and defensively.

"With those two days of play, I feel way better now," Pena said.

"He ended up getting eight at-bats in two games," added Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez. "That in itself will pay some dividends, whether it's tonight, tomorrow or somewhere down the road."

"It's not easy being on the bench and then go play and then come back," Pena said.

Should Pena have the opportunity to put the Braves on his shoulders yet again before this season ends, his throwing shoulder is much improved after a torn labrum cut his first year in an Atlanta uniform short.

"It's getting better," Pena said. "Day by day, it's going to be better. I've been throwing a little bit longer every day trying to get more long distance and get my arm a little bit stronger."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Joe Morgan is an associate reporter for MLB.com.

Atlanta Braves, Ramiro Pena