4/12/2014 7:12 P.M. ET
Back to bench, Pena benefits from at-bats
By Joe Morgan / 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.'"
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."
Resiliency a virtue not lost on Johnson
ATLANTA -- Chris Johnson understands he is bound to experience frustration similar to what he felt when he struck out in each of his four plate appearances against the Mets on Thursday night. But the Braves third baseman also understands the value of quickly bouncing back, like he did with an influential three-hit performance in Friday night's 7-6 win over the Nationals in 10 innings.
"I'm going to go 0-for-4 again this season," Johnson said. "I'm going to go two games without a hit again this season, probably. But I try to snap out of those quickly and rebound."
Johnson snapped an 0-for-10 skid with a third-inning double. He also delivered a go-ahead single with two outs in the fifth inning and produced the two-out, 10th-inning single that gave Justin Upton a chance to produce his walk-off single.
This was certainly not the first time the Braves have seen Johnson extend innings. Johnson has produced a Major League-best .368 (71-for-193) batting average with two outs dating back to the start of last season.
During this same span, Johnson ranks 10th in the Majors with the .375 batting average he has produced with two outs and runners in scoring position.
"I really relax more," Johnson said. "I feel, when we're in those situations, the pitcher is the one that is nervous and doesn't want to give up a hit. I like to be able to use the whole field there, and when I do use the whole field, it takes away a lot of the things the pitcher can use against me."
Uggla's error too much for Teheran to overcome
ATLANTA -- As Julio Teheran struggled with his command during Friday night's 7-6, 10-inning win over the Nationals, he escaped a fourth-inning threat without much harm. But his attempt to produce another escape act the following inning proved unsuccessful when he was forced to overcome second baseman Dan Uggla's throwing error.
Uggla cleanly fielded Adam LaRoche's two-out grounder and then made a lackadaisical throw that first baseman Freddie Freeman was unable to dig out of the dirt. Ryan Zimmerman followed with a game-tying three-run home run.
"I just threw it in the [ground]," Uggla said. "I had a bad feeling for some reason as soon as it came off the bat. I know I had a [bad] play. It's not the first [bad] play that I've caused runs on. It was great to get the win. It [stinks] that Teheran didn't get the win."
When Teheran limited his damage to one run after allowing the Nationals to load the bases with one out in the fourth inning, he was extending a trend during which he has limited opponents to a .218 batting average with runners in scoring position since the start of last year.
But Uggla's inning-extending error proved detrimental to Teheran, who has posted a 2.84 ERA despite allowing opponents to reach base at a .346 clip through his first three starts.
"You give a team another out and you're going, '[Teheran] ain't going to get over that one today," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Most starts, he's going to cover it up because he's got good stuff going on. He'll get the out. You could tell that his stuff wasn't good or whatever. It wasn't his day. He was going to have a tough time covering that one up, you know what I mean? And sure enough, he hit a 3-2 pitch right down the middle. Zimmerman will make you pay for it."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Joe Morgan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.