For the third time in three games in Atlanta’s Truist Park, Washington Nationals’ leadoff man César Hernández singled to lead off the top of the first in the finale this afternoon, and Juan Soto lined a single to right in the next at-bat, with both hits on mid-90s heaters, Hernández on a 95 MPH 0-2 fastball, and Soto on a 95 MPH first-pitch sinker from southpaw Max Fried.
A wild pitch moved Soto to second base with Nelson Cruz up, but the veteran slugger K’d swinging for the first out of the game, before Josh Bell sent an RBI grounder to short, 1-0, and 2-0 on a Maikel Franco liner to center field that brought Soto on from third base, 2-0.
Fried Settles In:
Braves’ lefty Max Fried gave up two runs early, but after that he settled in and retired 15 of the next 18 Nats’ batters he faced to get through five innings with just the two runs on the board for the visiting team.
Fried was up to 69 pitches after an 18-pitch fifth in which he worked around a two-out hit by César Hernández, striking out Juan Soto with a nasty 3-2 changeup that fooled the 23-year-old Nationals’ slugger.
Max Fried, Nasty 85mph Changeup.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 13, 2022
Soto's face. pic.twitter.com/CDUfIuoiaT
Josh Bell (2 for 3) singled with one out in the Nats’ sixth (after he’d doubled to start the 4th but was stranded), took second on a wild pitch, and third base on a single to right field by Maikel Franco, but Fried left the mound at that point, after a visit from the Braves’ trainer...
Max Fried’s Line: 5.1 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 Ks, 78 P, 53 S, 10/0 GO/FO.
In his second start with the Nationals after he was acquired from the Dodgers in a deadline deal late last July, Josiah Gray struck out a season-high 10 batters (out of the 22 he faced) in five strong on the mound against the eventual World Series champion Atlanta Braves in Truist Park.
What was working in that outing?
“The breaking balls for sure,” Gray said after the outing.
“Just working ahead with them, working in even counts with them, and then when I was ahead, just the command of them and the movement was really on point.
“Everything was on, but the breaking balls especially.”
This afternoon in the series finale with the Braves in their home ballpark, Gray took the hill with a 2-0 lead, and carved the Nats’ NL East rivals up in the early innings, striking out four of the first nine batters he faced in three scoreless, which he completed on 45 pitches.
Josiah Gray, Filthy 82mph Curveball. pic.twitter.com/LePVF6NQ9Q— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 13, 2022
Ozzie Albies, who singled to start the bottom of the first, was the only batter to reach base through three, and he was caught stealing after that hit, and Gray retired the next eight he faced before the Braves’ second baseman walked to start the home-half of the fourth. Matt Olson grounded into a 4-6-3 DP in the next at-bat, however, and after a two-out walk, Gray got a line drive to center for out No. 3 of an 18-pitch frame which left him at 63 total in four scoreless.
Gray hit Adam Duvall with one out (on an 0-2 pitch) and he walked Alex Dickerson with two down in the Braves’ half of the fifth, but a swinging K on a 1-2 slider to catcher Manny Piña got the Nationals’ starter through five scoreless frames on 82 pitches.
Josiah Gray’s Line: 5.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 Ks, 82 P, 50 S, 2/5 GO/FO.
Collin McHugh took over on the mound for the Braves with runners on the corners and two out in the Nats’ half of the sixth, and gave up a sac fly to right by Lane Thomas that made it 3-0 in the visitor’s favor.
Kyle Finnegan came on for the Nationals with a 3-0 lead and retired the first two batters he faced, but Austin Riley got all of a 2-2 slider outside and powered it out to right for a home run that got the Braves on the board, down 3-1 in the sixth. Riley’s 2nd of 2022.
A.J. Minter got the seventh for Atlanta, and retired the side in order in a 14-pitch frame, with three strikeouts for the left-hander.
Sean Doolittle needed just six pitches to retire the Braves in order in a quick bottom of the seventh.
DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO pic.twitter.com/zyTadd8nXF— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) April 13, 2022
Doolittle returned to the mound in the bottom of the eighth as well, but was replaced by Steve Cishek before he threw a pitch, with the Braves sending Guillermo Heredia to the plate instead of left-handed hitting Alex Dickerson.
Cishek needed just six pitches to get three outs as well. Still 3-1 Nationals.
Tanner Rainey got the ball with the two-run lead in the ninth and worked around a 1-out single, getting a double play to end the game. Ballgame. Final score, 3-1 Nats.
Nationals now 3-4