Wild play helps Walden get season on track
ATLANTA -- Braves reliever Jordan Walden needed something to go his way. With two outs and runners on first and second in the seventh inning of a tie game against the Nationals on April 11 at Turner Field, Walden got exactly what he needed.
Walden threw a wild pitch to Bryce Harper that bounced all the way to the Nationals' on-deck circle. Braves catcher Evan Gattis retrieved the ball and threw it to Walden, who tagged out Adam LaRoche at home to preserve the tie in an eventual 7-6 victory.
"That was a huge play right there for me," Walden said. "Got me out of the inning and didn't give up a run there. It gave me confidence."
Walden's recent outs have been a little less nerve-wracking. He has dominated out of the bullpen since April 11, striking out 11 batters in 7 1/3 scoreless innings and lowering his ERA to 1.93. He credits his recent success to mixing his pitches well.
"I'm just attacking, just attacking, trying not to let them get in their count," Walden said. "Just trying to stay ahead and throw my slider and changeup."
Walden's recent resurgence helps put behind him a late-season swoon that had carried into 2014. Dating back to Aug. 10 of last season, the right-hander had surrendered 13 hits and owned a 9.00 ERA in his previous 11 appearances before April 11.
He had seemingly turned the tide when he struck out Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth to lead off that seventh inning, but his struggles resurfaced as he gave up a single to LaRoche and walked Ryan Zimmerman.
His luck seemed to take a turn for the worse on the wild pitch to Harper as Gattis had no idea where the ball had gone initially. But LaRoche's gamble to try to take two bases and perhaps the best defensive play of Gattis's young career paid off for Walden.
"I was just praying Gattis was going to get the ball to me quicker, and he did," Walden said. "That was a crazy play."