ATL@WSH: Gattis extends hitting streak to 20 games

WASHINGTON -- While the Braves understand a handful of their pitchers have had some problems communicating with catcher Evan Gattis during games, they are also well aware of the tremendous offensive value Gattis provides as he continues to get used to calling games at the Major League level.

Thus, the Braves are planning to remain patient with Gattis much like they have been with Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy and some of the other young pitchers they have nurtured in recent memory.

Gattis' 20-game hitting streak came to a close when he was given a chance to handle the starting catching duties for a season-high fifth straight day in Sunday afternoon's 4-1 loss to the Nationals. He batted .386 (32-for-83) with eight home runs and a 1.150 OPS during the career-long streak.

"It had to come to an end sometime, Gattis said. "It was a good run."

Sunday's unexpected start gave Gattis a chance to gain more comfort with Braves starting pitcher Ervin Santana, who has internally indicated that he would rather throw to Gerald Laird, who had served as the starting catcher in five of Santana's previous six starts. This battery seemed effective on Sunday as Santana allowed three runs over six innings.

"I think it was good," Gattis said. " I thought it was the best lineup. I was good to go today."

Santana has experienced some of the same communication problems that became clear as Julio Teheran was unable to hide the frustration he felt while working with Gattis on Saturday night.

"I've never seen anything like it," said a National League scout in reference to the amount of time Teheran spent either shaking off Gattis' signs or simply staring at the plate waiting to see the sign he wanted.

Despite the fact that he recorded a season-high 10 strikeouts, Teheran was visibly frustrated throughout most of his seven innings. The 23-year-old pitcher showed his youth as he became more visibly agitated during the fifth inning. Then, he allowed his emotions to get the best of him when he was called for an embarrassing balk. He stepped off the rubber and toward the plate after waiting what he perceived to be too long to get the sign he wanted from Gattis.

Teheran said he spoke to Gattis on Sunday morning and assured him that he wants him to continue serving as his primary catcher. Gattis has caught just 97 games at the Major League level. This past winter, former Braves catcher Brian McCann said he was in the Majors for at least four years before he became truly comfortable calling a game.

Gattis said most of Saturday's confusion stemmed from instances when Teheran was shaking off pitches in an attempt to confuse opposing batters.

"I know sometimes [Gattis] feels bad," Teheran said on Sunday. "I just talked to him and said, 'don't feel bad,' I've got a lot of pitches that I've got to make and sometimes I want to show them what I have … But we've been doing a great job together. Even yesterday, I had 10 [strikeouts]. It's good."

Heyward endorses Braves' new lineup

ATL@WSH: Heyward lines double to right, plates a pair

WASHINGTON -- Tommy La Stella has struggled since being moved to the leadoff role. But Jason Heyward, who formerly filled Atlanta's top lineup spot, is among the Braves who seem to like the lineup structure manager Fredi Gonzalez has utilized the past five games.

"With the lineup change, I like it and I think everybody else likes it as well," Heyward said. "We get a few games with it and we get comfortable, I think it's going to set us up to be pretty dangerous throughout the whole lineup."

Heyward did not say specifically what he believes is the optimal lineup makeup. But he said what he likes best is splitting three left-handers -- La Stella, Freeman (bats third) and Heyward -- through the first five spots.

If La Stella is going to remain in the leadoff spot, he will need to get back to being the selective hitter that he was throughout his Minor League career. Since moving to the top of Atlanta's lineup, he has gone 2-for-20 and drawn just two walks in 22 plate appearances.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez might also soon have to decide how much longer he is willing to give B.J. Upton a chance to prove productive in the second spot. Upton has batted .202 with a .272 on-base percentage through 71 games. In 19 games this month, he has compiled a .218 on-base percentage and struck out once every 3.1 plate appearances.