Washington’s Nationals came into this series on a four-game winning streak, and they’re on their way to New York, for three with the Yankees this weekend, after getting swept by their NL East rivals from Atlanta. The Braves took three straight in D.C., handing Washington their second series sweep of the year, which is the first for the Braves against the Nats since April 11-13, 2014 in Atlanta, and the first at home in the nation’s capital since Aug. 5-7, 2013. Final score: 3-2 ATL.
Lester vs the Braves: Veteran lefty Jon Lester, 37, tossed five scoreless in his 2021 debut, working around five hits and two walks in a 70-pitch effort in what ended up a 2-1 win for Washington over the Miami Marlins.
Lester, who signed a 1-year/$5M deal with the Nationals this winter, was excited to finally be on the mound after surgery to remove one of four parathyroid glands this spring, and a stint on the COVID-IL at the start of the season.
It was his fourth career start in Nationals Park, and his first as part of the rotation in D.C.
“I’ve always liked this mound, I’ve always liked the view, kind of just the visual of being out there, the mound is good,” he said.
“I’ve always liked pitching here, it’s just got a good feeling. It was nice to get out there with some fans. That’s the first kind of experience obviously up there with these guys, so it was just nice to get this one out of the way. The first one is always tough no matter if it’s Spring Training or the regular season, so it’s always nice to get the feet wet and kind of move on from this one.”
Start No. 2 for Lester began with three scoreless, which he completed on 36 pitches, facing the minimum, but Ronald Acuña, Jr. lined a single to left to start the top of the fourth. Acuña stole second in the next at bat, and took third on a throwing error by Yan Gomes, then came in (after an Ozzie Albies’ walk) on an RBI double to left by Marcell Ozuna, 1-0. Albies made it over to third on Ozuna’s hit, but Lester picked up back-to-back Ks for the first two outs. Two more runs scored, however, on a two-out single to center by Ehire Adrianza, who hit a first-pitch sinker back up the middle, 3-0.
Lester came back in the fifth, with a 13-pitch, 1-2-3 frame which left him at 81 pitches total, but he gave up a leadoff single in the sixth and the Nationals went to the bullpen for Austin Voth, who got a double play to erase the inherited runner, and a groundout to short for out No. 3.
Jon Lester’s Line: 5.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 Ks, 85 P, 57 S, 3/4 GO/FO.
Smyly vs the Nationals: Drew Smyly, who signed with Atlanta as a free agent in November of 2020, agreeing to a 1-year/$11M deal, made his first start for the Braves back on April 6, giving up four hits and four runs (two earned) over six innings of work in a 6-5 loss on the road in Washington, D.C.’s Nationals Park.
In four starts overall this season, the 31-year-old, seven-year veteran was (0-2) with an 8.05 ERA, an 8.48 FIP, seven walks, 18 Ks, and a .282/.337/.679 line against in 19 IP before today.
Smyly, this afternoon, was taking on a Nats’ roster that had a combined .288/.368/.458 line against lefties after a month-plus this season, good for 2nd/2nd/5th across the line in the majors.
The lefty tossed three scoreless to start, on 46 pitches, then returned to the mound in the fourth with a 3-0 lead and walked Josh Bell with one down, before giving up a two-out hit off Kyle Schwarber’s bat that Ronald Acuña, Jr. bobbled in right, allowing Bell to score, 3-1, as Schwarber “raced” around to third. Smyly walked Victor Robles to get to the opposing pitcher, Jon Lester, and got a swinging K for out No. 3.
A quick, seven-pitch fifth left Smyly at 76 pitches, and the lefty came back out for the sixth and worked around a leadoff single by Starlin Castro, but a leadoff walk to Kyle Schwarber started the seventh and ended Smyly’s outing...
Drew Smyly’s Line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 4 Ks, 98 P, 59 S, 3/6 GO/FO.
J-Hay: Going into today’s game, infielder Josh Harrison, who started at second and hit third in the finale with the Braves, had reached base safely in 16 of his 19 games this season, as noted in the Nationals’ pregame notes.
“His .418 on-base percentage would rank sixth in the National League,” the Nationals wrote, “... but he falls just short of qualifying (3.03 PA/team game) to be among the league leaders (3.1 PA/team game).”
Harrison made it 17 of 20 games in which he reached base this season with a single in his first trip to the plate, and he doubled to start the eighth for a 2 for 4 day overall.
Bullpen Action: Austin Voth got three outs in the sixth, after taking over for Jon Lester, and he came back out in the top of the seventh, and retired the side in order (with help from a diving Victor Robles in center, who robbed Dansby Swanson of a leadoff hit).
Luke Jackson took over for Drew Smyly with a runner on first and no one out in the bottom of the seventh, after a Kyle Schwarber walk and Victor Robles’ single, and pinch hitter Juan Soto stepped in next and got up 2-0, but lined out to left for the first out of the frame. Trea Turner sent a grounder to short for out No. 2 on a force at second, and Yadiel Hernández’s grounder to second ended the threat.
Daniel Hudson retired the Braves in order in an 11-pitch top of the eighth.
Edgar Santana gave up a double by Josh Harrison in the first at bat of the Nats’ eighth, with Harrison just missing a home run on a fly that bounced off the high GEICO wall in center.
Starlin Castro walked in the next at bat, and one out later, after a Josh Bell fly to left moved Harrison to third, Yan Gomes drove in run No. 2 with an RBI single to right, 3-2.
Grant Dayton came out of the pen for the Braves with runners on first and second with one out, and struck Kyle Schwarber out for out No. 2, before Victor Robles K’d looking at ball 4 on a curve low in the zone that home plate umpire Nick Mahrley blew.
Brad Hand retired the side in order in a nine-pitch frame to keep it a one-run game.
Ryan Zimmerman, who had the bat taken out of his hands by Nick Mahrley in the eighth, hit a double to left off lefty Will Smith to start the bottom of the ninth.
Andrew Stevenson came on to run for Zimmerman, and took third base on a Trea Turner fly to right, before Yadiel Hernández K’d swinging at a 2-2 slider for out No. 2. Josh Harrison? A fly to right to end it.
Final Score: 3-2 Braves
Nationals now 12-15