Nationals manager Dave Martinez left his horse, Max Scherzer, to face the Braves for a sixth inning despite having thrown over 100 pitches. A few minutes later, the Braves transformed Scherzer’s two-run lead into a two-run deficit, as a couple of two-run bombs by Adam Duvall and Ozzie Albies completely flipped the script on Martinez, Scherzer, and the Nationals. Some more effective pitching by Kyle Wright and the Atlanta relief corps ensued, and just like that, the Braves came away with a series win and a season series win over the Nats.
The game was a mismatch on paper, but it never really lived up to that billing, as the Braves weren’t fazed by Scherzer, and Kyle Wright was decent on the hill. The Braves drew first blood on a couple of doubles (Freddie Freeman, Travis d’Arnaud in the first), but the Nationals tied the game when Asdrubal Cabrera creamed Wright’s first pitch of the second, a get-me-over fastball, into the right-field stands. d’Arnaud once again came up big in the fourth, as he lashed a leadoff single, moved up on a wild pitch, and scored when Nick Markakis laced a 3-1 pitch into center. However, that lead didn’t last very long, either: Juan Soto led off the bottom of the inning with a double on a 3-0 count, moved to third on a deep fly out by Cabrera, and then scored when Kurt Suzuki hit a grounder back up the middle. Albies fielded the ball near the second base bag and threw home, but Soto had a huge lead off third and scored ahead of the throw. Wright followed by walking Thames, but the Braves got out of it on a wacky play: Carter Kieboom hit a soft pop to Freeman that the Braves’ first baseman ended up dropping. As a result, the force was on at second, and the Braves also nabbed Suzuki before he could advance to third.
The game seemed to unravel a bit in the fifth. Scherzer started the inning with two strikeouts, giving him ten on the afternoon. Freeman singled and Marcell Ozuna walked, bringing up d’Arnaud with a chance to go 3-for-3, but it was not to be. d’Arnaud found a 1-1 pitch, a grooved fastball, that he liked and put a great swing on, but the ball died on the warning track in right-center and the game remained tied. That sent Wright back to the hill for a fifth inning, and it was not great. Luis Garcia got things started for Washington by lining a single to right. Victor Robles then blooped a broken-bat single into center, in between the three up-the-middle defenders. Wright was left in for the third time through the order, and Adam Eaton greeted him by reaching safely on a bunt to Austin Riley at third base.
What happened next, well, baseball! Just not the kind that’s awesome for the Braves. Trea Turner hit Wright’s very next pitch back up the middle. It could’ve been a double play that would’ve given the Nationals the lead, but instead, Albies grabbed the ball, stepped on second, and fired wildly off Freeman’s glove. The result was a lone out, two runs scoring, and Turner ending up on the second. Wright intentionally walked Soto and got a first-pitch double play from Cabrera to end the frame, but he was suddenly down two runs, despite just one hard-hit ball (and only one ball with a hit probability over 22 percent) in the inning.
Not to worry, though! As was noted above, the Nationals left Scherzer in the game, and their afternoon quickly turned sinister as a result. With one out, Markakis singled to right, and then, BOOM! Adam Duvall, center-cut fastball, center field, tie ball game:
All that work by the Nationals (single, single, bunt single, weird error thing, intentional walk, double play), undone by two swings within three pitches.
Oh, but the Braves weren’t done. After Austin Riley reached base on a flare single, Ozzie Albies followed with a slightly-less-crushed-but-hey-it-still-counts-the-same dinger of his own. BOOM, redux:
That was it for Scherzer, who finished his outing with six runs (oof) and two homers (oof oof) in 5 2⁄3 innings of work, despite a sparkly 10/2 K/BB ratio. Wander Suero came on and finished off the sixth.
The Braves, too, had a decision to make. Wright was in a fairly similar boat, but is also no Max Scherzer. The difference was that Wright had only thrown around 75 pitches coming into the inning, while Scherzer was at 104. The difference, in the end, was also that Wright kept the Nationals off the board — he got two outs in the air, faltered a bit by allowing back-to-back singles, but then benefited when, for a second straight night, Robles snuffed out a key rally by flying out weakly to right.
So hey, give it up for Kyle Wright: it wasn’t great, and it wasn’t always pretty, but it was fine! Livable! Probably the sort of thing the Braves were hoping to reasonably get, all along! Six innings, 96 pitches, 10 baserunners (eight hits, two walks), four strikeouts, and a longball allowed. Not his best start of the year (or his career) individually, by any metric — but by a combination, it’ll do.
After both starters departed, it was up to the bullpens, and they mostly succeeded. Kyle Finnegan struck out the side. The Braves then used a trio of relievers, none of which allowed any runs, but each of whom walked the first batter he faced. Tyler Matzek went walk-strikeout-strikeout to Eaton-Turner-Soto; O’Day was brought on to turn Cabrera around and walked him before getting Suzuki to pop out to end the seventh. Ryne Harper threw a 1-2-3 top of the eighth, and A.J. Minter got three outs after a leadoff walk of his own. The Braves touched Harper for a couple of runs in the top of the ninth (walk, strikeout, intentional walk, Ozuna RBI single, d’Arnaud RBI groundout), which let Chris Martin close out the game with a four-run lead. He had few issues, needing just five pitches to retire Eaton and Turner, and then finally striking out Soto after an eight-pitch battle on a neck-high cutter.
The Braves win for the fourth time in five games, guaranteeing they won’t lose ground in the division, as the Marlins won the first game of their doubleheader with the Phillies earlier in the day. (The Marlins also lead the Phillies in the second game at the time of this writing.)
The Braves now stay local as they had to Camden Yards to play the Orioles, with Touki Toussaint maybe hoping to follow in Wright’s footsteps on Monday. Stay tuned for more dingers.