WASHINGTON -- After spending most of last season as Atlanta's starting second baseman, Jace Peterson found himself back in the Minors one month into this season. But the unexpected demotion did not deter the hard-nosed infielder, who has spent the past two months proving he has the capability to enjoy a long and prosperous career at the big league level.
Peterson has developed into a versatile utility player who provides solid defense at multiple positions and has the ability to consistently produce quality plate appearances, like he did as the Braves ended a 14-game losing streak at Nationals Park with Friday night's 8-5 win. He homered off Stephen Strasburg in the second inning and then delivered a sacrifice fly when given a chance to face a left-handed pitcher in the seventh.
"He got us a big run in the second inning and then a big sac fly against Oliver Pérez," Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said. "His defensive play at second base tonight was remarkable. He's been huge since he came back from the Minors."
With just 50 plate appearances under his belt, Peterson was hitting .182/.260/.205 when he was demoted to Triple-A Gwinnett on May 2. He batted .186/.275/.258 in 110 plate appearances at the Minor League level.
But since returning to the Majors in early June, he has hit .276/.364/.420. He halted a recent slump when he began the second inning with his sixth home run. Each of his six homers have been tallied within the 181 at-bats he has compiled since returning from Gwinnett. He produced this same home run total over 528 at-bats in 2015 -- his first full season in the Majors.
"This game is a tough game," Peterson said. "Numbers aren't everything, even though I know you get judged on your numbers. Down there, I was working on some things. I wasn't getting the results I wanted. But I continued to work on them. I knew it was the right fix and it's starting to pay off."
With Gordon Beckham back from the disabled list and Matt Kemp now manning left field on a regular basis, Braves interim manager Brian Snitker has had to find ways to give Peterson as much playing time as possible.
Peterson has shared time at second base with the right-handed hitting Beckham, but over the course of this season he has shown he's not the same guy who batted .190 in 105 at-bats against left-handed pitchers while playing with a torn tendon in his right thumb most of last season.
Since returning from Gwinnett, Peterson has hit .296 (8-for-27) against southpaws. Thus, it was not necessarily surprising to see him get the opportunity to remain in Friday's game and deliver an insurance run with his bases-loaded sacrifice fly off Perez.
"He's stayed positive and worked hard," Snitker said. "On a night like tonight, you leave him in against the left-hander and he drives in a big run. He just typifies what these guys are about."