Juan Soto hit a two-run home run in the fifth to break up a 1-1 tie, but Ozzie Albies hit a two-run double in the seventh to knot it back up at 3-3, before Yan Gomes hit a two-out solo HR to center in the eighth to put the Washington Nationals up for good in their second straight win over the Braves in Atlanta’s Truist Park. Final Score: 5-3 Nats.
Lester vs ATL: Jon Lester started in the nightcap of this past Saturday’s doubleheader in the nation’s capital, but he only went four innings in that outing against the Milwaukee Brewers, throwing 74 pitches and giving up five hits and a run. His spot came up with two on and one out in the seven-inning game, however, so the Nationals went with a pinch hitter.
“It sucks as far as the work you put in coming into a start and only going four,” Lester said of the abbreviated outing, “but you know at the end of the day you have to sit back and realize what the manager is trying to do to make the best decision for our team.”
It also likely allowed him to come right back on short rest today with the Nationals in need of a starter.
Lester worked around a walk and a single in the bottom of the first tonight, and he took the mound in the second with a 1-0 lead and promptly surrendered a game-tying home run on an 0-1 cutter up and away to Dansby Swanson that the Braves’ shortstop hit out the other way for a game-tying blast, 1-1. Swanson’s 9th.
Back-to-back singles followed the home run, but Lester worked around the hits to keep it 1-1 after two, and he stranded two in the third after a Freddie Freeman single and an error over at short by Trea Turner on an Ozzie Albies’ grounder put two on with no one out. The Nats’ starter retired the next three batters for a scoreless frame, and 11-straight overall over the next few innings before a two-out walk to Ehire Adrianza ended his outing in the sixth, with the Nationals up 3-1...
Jon Lester’s Line: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 Ks, 1 HR, 87 P, 53 S, 10/3 GO/FO.
Smyly vs D.C.: In two starts against the Nationals this season before tonight, Braves’ left-hander Drew Smyly gave up a combined eight hits and five runs, two earned, in 12 IP.
Smyly, 31, signed a 1-year/$11M deal with the Braves this winter. In three starts since he and the Nationals last matched up, the southpaw gave up 15 hits and 11 earned runs in 17 1⁄3 IP (5.37 ERA) with opposing hitters putting up a .231/.275/.462 line against him, and in the last start before tonight, he gave up five hits and seven runs in 5 1⁄3 IP on the road in Boston.
Back home in Atlanta’s Truist Park tonight, Smyly fell behind early when he gave up back-to-back-to-back, one-out singles in the top of the second.
Yan Gomes, Kyle Schwarber, and Starlin Castro connected for the consecutive hits with the third, by Castro, driving Gomes in from second to put the Nationals up 1-0.
An error on a one-out, Josh Harrison grounder. and back-to-back walks (to Juan Soto and Josh Bell) in the next two at bats loaded the bases in front Yan Gomes, but swinging Ks in back-to-back at bats (against Gomes and Kyle Schwarber) got Smyly out of the jam, still 1-1.
Trea Turner doubled to start the fifth, but was thrown out at third trying to advance on a ball up the middle. Josh Harrison, who hit the grounder, was on when Juan Soto stepped in with one out and hit an 0-2 fastball out to left-center for a two-run shot and a 3-1 Nats’ lead. No. 6 of 2021 for Soto. Second in two games (both off lefties to the opposite field). A single in the next at bat by Josh Bell ended Smyly’s outing...
Drew Smyly’s Line: 4.1 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 6 Ks, 1 HR, 90 P, 57 S, 9/1 GO/FO.
Soto Trot: Juan Soto went 11 games between his 4th and 5th HRs of the 2021 season, with the fifth an opposite field blast off left-hander Grant Dayton on Tuesday night, and but one game between his 5th and 6th dingers, with the sixth another opposite field blast, off of a different lefty, Drew Smyly. Soto talked after Tuesday’s home run about the joys of hitting one out and running the bases.
“I mean, it always feels great to hit a homer,” Soto said. “I mean, I know all the players in the big leagues and minor leagues, everywhere, they hit a homer it feels great.
“It just feels great. A long time to get that feeling, hit that ball that hard, and just run around the bases, it just feel great to be like that and hit a homer again, it’s a great feeling.”
So great, he clearly wanted to feel it again.
Bullpen Action: Braves’ righty Luke Jackson took over with a runner on and one out in the top of the fifth, and dialed up an inning-ending 4-6-3 on his second pitch to Yan Gomes.
Jackson returned to the mound in the sixth, with the score 3-1 in the Nationals’ favor, and he retired the side in order in a seven-pitch frame to keep it a two-run game.
Tanner Rainey took over for the Nationals with a runner on and two out after a walk from Jon Lester ended the lefty’s outing, and struck Guillermo Heredia out in a four-pitch, four-slider at bat. Still 3-1 Nats.
Edgar Santana retired the Nationals in order in an 11-pitch top of the seventh.
Pinch hitter Abraham Almonte hit an opposite field, ground-rule double to left off of Rainey in the first at bat of the bottom of the seventh.
Kyle Schwarber made a diving attempt at the ball, but came up empty, and two pitches into the next at bat, he left the field, limping off under his own power.
Rainey struck out two batters but walked Freddie Freeman with two down, so the Nationals went to Daniel Hudson against Ozzie Albies (as the potential go-ahead run). Hudson got up, 0-1, but gave up a game-tying, two-run double to the right-center gap on a 98 MPH fastball, 3-3.
A.J. Minter took over for the Braves in the eighth, and retired the first two batters he faced, but Yan Gomes hit a 2-2 cutter out to center to put the Nationals back on top, 4-3.
Hudson returned to the mound in the Braves’ eighth and retired the side in order, striking out two in a 14-pitch frame.
Righty Chris Martin got the ninth for the Braves, and retired two batters then got up 0-2 on Victor Robles before going to 2-2 and eventually hitting Robles in the left arm with a slider.
Robles took his base, stole second, and scored on an RBI single by Trea Turner, 5-3.
Brad Hand got the ninth for the Nationals, and retired the side in order to end it. Ballgame.
Final Score: 5-3 Nationals
Nationals now 23-29