The Nationals got what they needed tonight from their ace, Stephen Strasburg, and their closer, Sean Doolittle, and 5-runs of support for a 5-4 win in Atlanta. Strasburg was on point all night and was victimized in one inning by two bloop hits on his way to a 7.0 inning 2-run 11-strikeout gem. Howie Kendrick and Trea Turner paced the offense with 3 hits apiece, and Turner had a key 8th inning web gem turned on Freddie Freeman. The difference in the game was Howie’s 7th inning solo home run.
The 8th inning was more of the same as Kyle Barraclough was given the inning, and the first batter he faced, Freddie Freeman, smashed a 107 mph shot up the middle that Trea Turner somehow gloved to his backhand on a dive from behind second base in a shift. That play was certainly the defensive play of the game. After a Josh Donaldson double, and an Austin Riley 2-run home run to bring the game from 5-2 to 5-4, that Freeman out to start the inning loomed large and was ultimately the difference in this one-run win. The Nationals 8th inning ERA ticked up to 8.84, but on this night did not turn into a loss.
Our pre-game scouting was spot on with how the Nationals could victimize the Atlanta bullpen and the Nats received a bases loaded walk (charged to the starter Max Fried) plus the Kendrick home run off of the Atlanta bullpen.
The Nationals made a couple of mistakes including two pick-offs, and one of them was on Adam Eaton where he was caught at least 10 feet off of first base as if he was not paying attention. Eaton was also guilty of missing a cut-off man allowing a runner to move up to second base. Eaton would later get one of those bases loaded walks and got his team a run back.
“Our at-bats were really really good,” manager Dave Martinez said. “We got big walks. I look back at the game and the first seven balls we hit were hard. They hit the ball really well.”
The offense took advantage of another top lefty as the Nats did to Fried what they did to Caleb Smith on Saturday. This right-handed dominant line-up made Fried work in this game.
Some of the other bright spots included Juan Soto extending his hitting streak to 12-games, and Doolittle’s dominance in the 9th inning for the save including getting out the top of the Braves order including the dangerous Freeman as he struck out the side.
“That was really big for me,” Doolittle said. “And probably an even bigger win for the team.”
Strasburg was brilliant in his pitch sequencing tonight to keep the Braves off-balance. This marks Stephen Strasburg’s 43rd game in which he has recorded 10+ strikeouts in a game and his third of the season.