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The Nationals won their first game of the season Saturday 6-3 over the Atlanta Braves, keyed by a big rally-killing effort from the bullpen with Tyler Clippard leading the charge.
The Braves threatened a big rally in the sixth inning when Dan Uggla led off the inning with a solo homer off of Chad Gaudin's first pitch that made it 4-2 Nationals.
Following a walk and a double, Clippard got out of a 3-1 count to strikeout pinch hitter Brooks Conrad and induced Martin Prado into a liner to left field to end the inning.
"It was huge," Clippard said. "In that situation, men on second and third with one out, you want to get ahead of the guy. I was not able to do that. Lucky enough, I made a couple of good pitches to battle my way back into the count. I made a good 3-2 pitch and got the strikeout which was huge for the team."
Clippard says he has noticed a difference with this team even though it has been just two games. It is the pitching and defense that has been a highlight of the series against Atlanta.
"The last 18 innings of baseball have been very much different of what kind of baseball club we have been the over last two years. (We played) a lot better, a lot cleaner with good defense, moving guys over, and getting guys in when we need to. It was good to get this win because we played so well."
Tyler Clippard discusses the Nats' outstanding defense in their 6-3 victory over Atlanta
Nationals manager Jim Riggleman says Clippard started his outstanding run on Thursday by getting two outs and allowing no runs in the seventh when the Braves were threatening to add to a 2-0 lead. Then on Saturday, he did it again, getting five huge outs and leaving three men stranded in the sixth and seventh innings.
"Clippard has done that twice now," Riggleman said. "He has come in with men on base and left those men out there. He is facing some tough hitters. They got a good lineup."
Riggleman says his squad can gain a lot of confidence from a game like this because they were able to hold an early lead against a team filled with potent hitters.
"It is a great ball club they put out there," Riggleman said. "We just really feel good with the way we played them here. We got that lead. We really wanted to get that game so our guys can really start feeling like they can play with these other teams."