Matt Adams got to Mike Soroka first, taking an 0-1 fastball down and away from the righty to left-center field in SunTrust Park for a game-tying opposite field home run in the fourth that tied things up at 1-1 after the Atlanta Braves jumped out to a 1-0 lead.
Adams’ 15th homer of 2019 was just the fifth Atlanta’s 21-year-old, 2015 1st Round pick has allowed in 99 2⁄3 innings on the mound this season.
An inning later, an errant throw by third baseman Josh Donaldson on a swinging bunt by Washington’s starter, Aníbal Sánchez, started a three-run rally which ended up being the difference in the Nationals’ 5-3 win.
What did the Nats’ hitters figure out after they’d managed just four hits, a walk, and the one run off Soroka before stringing together five hits, Sánchez’s infield single, an RBI double by Trea Turner, a single by Adam Eaton, and RBI hits by both Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto in the fifth?
“Be aggressive, and get a ball up,” Davey Martinez said in his post-game presser, when he was asked what, if anything, changed.
“He’s got an unbelievable sinker and his slider and changeup, he used the changeup a lot today, so we just had to get the ball up. We started swinging at balls down and that’s what he wants you to do, ground balls, ground balls, get the ball up.”
Sánchez gave up two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, on a two-run homer by Braves’ catcher Brian McCann, before he was lifted, in what was then a 4-3 game in the Nats’ favor, but a night after the bullpen faltered again in a 4-3 loss, and the manager’s every decision was questioned, Martinez pushed the right buttons.
Wander Suero got three outs around a walk in the sixth, then came back out and worked around a two-out single in the seventh, recording six outs on 32 pitches.
Fernando Rodney, who threw 32 pitches in Friday night’s game, gave up a single by McCann in the Braves’ half of the eighth, but struck Austin Riley out before Martinez went to pen for Sean Doolittle, who he’d decided not to use in the second game of the series, for a five-out save which the closer completed with minimal drama for save No. 21 of 2019.
“When you had to use Suero that early and what a job he did,” Martinez said. “He comes in and pitches two innings, tremendous job, then you have to start saying okay, you know, we got Rodney, if he gets one or two outs, I told [Pitching Coach] Paul [Menhart, ‘We’ve got to get Doo in the game. We’ve got to get Doo in.’ And that’s what ended up happening.”
The second-year skipper said he never considered going to Doo for a six-out save, however, even though Rodney threw a lot of pitches on Friday. [ed. note - “Martinez said after Friday night’s loss that the Nats’ 42-year-old veteran told him, ‘Hey, I’m ready to pitch tomorrow,’ and apparently he was.”] But going to Doolittle for six outs? No.
“No, I think that would have been a little much,” Martinez said. “But I’ve asked these guys to do things that they normally don’t do, and I’d have to say that I’m very proud of each and every one of them, because handily they just — we ask them and they say, ‘Hey, I’m in, let’s go.’ And it’s great when you have those kind of guys, the players like that that want to take the ball and they want to win and they compete and they go out there and they’re playing the game with a lot of energy, with a lot of emotion and they’re playing really well.”
Was he proud of the way his team responded after the previous night’s disappointing loss?
“Like I’ve said before, these guys are coming to play baseball every day. Regardless of what happens, we can’t control what happens the night before, let’s play. Come out and play and go 1-0 the next day and they’ve been doing that. Like I’ve said, we don’t worry about the future, we worry about now, and that’s what we’ve been doing.”