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Braves rally in the ninth inning to split doubleheader against Nationals

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Ender Inciarte’s ninth-inning triple brought in two runs and broke what had been a tense deadlock between the Braves and Nationals

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

After making it through the pitcher’s duel portion of the game with the game still tied, the Braves broke through in the ninth inning and were able to pick up a big 3-1 victory over the Nationals.

As if the Braves didn’t get enough of Juan Soto during the matinee game, Washington’s prodigious teen made his presence felt in the very first inning of this one. Soto got all of a fastball from Newcomb and sent it into the opposite field seats to put the Nationals in front. Fortunately it was simply a solo home run, so the Braves were still very much in the game at that juncture since Newcomb got out of the inning with that being the only number on the board for Washington.

There wasn’t a whole lot of offense to talk about in this one, since both pitchers lived up to expectations. Newcomb settled in and kept the Nationals in check, while Max Scherzer once again proved to be an extremely formidable presence on the mound for Washington. This game was going to be the most likely one to break out into a pitcher’s duel and that’s exactly what we got.

That isn’t to say that the Braves didn’t have their fair share of chances while Scherzer was on the mound. Ender Inciarte got on base in the second inning with a two-out single and then made it from first-to-third after a single from Johan Camargo, but Ender would end up being stranded at third to end the inning after Dansby Swanson weakly grounded out to end Atlanta’s chances of scoring.

The Braves had another chance in the fourth inning to get on the board after Freddie Freeman led off that frame with a walk and then made it to third base as well after Nick Markakis slapped a single out to center field. Once again, Max Scherzer knuckled down and proceeded to mow down the next three batters to end the scoring threat right then and there.

Meanwhile, Sean Newcomb didn’t run into too much trouble at all as he picked up where he left off from following his near no-hitter from his last outing. Michael Taylor hit a double to lead off the fifth, but he was the only Nationals baserunner (other than Soto) who made it to second base while Newcomb was on the mound. He wasn’t a threat to make it to third base, either — even though he walked Trea Turner with two outs, Newcomb struck out Juan Soto to end the fifth inning with yet another zero on the board.

In the sixth inning, the Braves finally broke through and scored a run. When the lineups were announced, Ozzie Albies was notably benched for the game and this was actually done with the idea that Albies hasn’t fared well against Scherzer so maybe Charlie Culberson could do something? It was a questionable choice but then Culberson proceeded to make all of us skeptics look dumb and idiotic by going deep on Max Scherzer for a solo home run.

The batters for each team surely breathed a sigh of relief in the bottom of the seventh and the eighth, because that’s when the bullpen for each team got involved. Fortunately for Atlanta, Jesse Biddle took the baton and ran with it. He entered with one out in the seventh after Dan Winkler gave up a single and then proceeded to sit down the next five batters he faced, which allowed the Braves to make it into the ninth inning with the game still tied at one.

That’s important because the Braves came out firing in the top of the ninth. Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis both singled off of Kelvin Herrera to start off the frame. They both could have come home when Kurt Suzuki hit a blazing liner towards third base, but Anthony Rendon managed to somehow corral it into his glove to record the first out of the inning. While the Nationals were fortunate to avoid being dealt a painful blow then, there was no such luck for the home team in the very next at-bat.

Ender’s triple (with the help of some lackadaisical defense from Bryce Harper) put the Braves in front by two and that’s where the lead stood heading into the ninth inning. The Nationals made it interesting after a double from Ryan Zimmerman and when Michael Taylor made it to first after getting struck on his foot. The good news is that Matt Wieters hit a bullet directly at Johan Camargo, who then shot it over to second base to catch Zimmerman wandering from the bag to end the game.

So, the Braves end up losing the day game but manage to win the game where the other team was starting a perennial Cy Young candidate — go figure. Wins are beautiful no matter what, but tonight’s win definitely feels better than most others will when it comes to the regular season.