On paper, the Braves were the overwhelming favorite in this game especially after their walk-off win last night, but the games are not played on paper and the Nats scored four runs off of the Atlanta ace Mike Soroka who was second in the Majors in ERA coming into this game just trailing Hyun-Jin Ryu and ahead of Max Scherzer. It was Matt Adams who got the start tonight at first base, and he made an impact early. Adams got the scoring going for the Nats with a solo home run to tie the game in the fourth inning. In the fifth inning, the Nats poured it on and put together five straight hits from Anibal Sanchez to Trea Turner to Adam Eaton to Anthony Rendon to Juan Soto to score three more runs. A combination of Trea Turner and Adam Eaton scored the fifth run for the final score of 5-3.
There were some fundamental managerial mistakes like the use of a double-switch that was not done by the book. Manager Dave Martinez double-switched Sean Doolittle into the game six spots into the lineup into Matt Adams spot instead of the 8th or 9th spots in the lineup where Kurt Suzuki and Victor Robles were batting. The obvious spot was taking out Kurt Suzuki who was being run on all game and Suzuki is scuffling in a 1-14 slump. Instead, the Nats had bases loaded in the 9th with one out and Sean Doolittle had to bat and he grounded into an inning ending doubleplay. Fortunately, those runs were not needed because Doolittle closed out the game.
“The biggest thing you want your best defense up the middle,” Martinez said defending his move on the double-switch. “We could have done Robles. You don’t want to do that. You could have done Dozier. You don’t want to do that. I’m very reluctant taking out catchers when the game is like that because Suzuki had a great game plan tonight. Sometimes you put another catcher in and things go awry.”
There was also questionable use of bringing in bullpen arms, but as they say it is better to be luckier than good sometimes. Martinez brought in Fernando Rodney who threw 32-pitches last night, and he came in for the 8th inning and gave up a leadoff single against the lefty batting Brian McCann because he pitched him on the outside edge against the way his defense was shifted. Rodney did school the young Austin Riley. Doolittle came in with one out, and got the final five outs of the game for the save! It was Doolittle’s first five out save of the season.
Perhaps the game was saved earlier by Trea Turner who skied a few feet up in the air while twirling a complete 360 degree revolution above the imaginary rim to snare a Nick Markakis liner with bases loaded and one out, and when Turner returned floating through the Atlanta air to landing on his feet firmly planted in the Braves infield dirt, he had enough baseball sense to look around and completed a slick doubleplay picking-off Josh Donaldson who had aggressively run off first base. How many runs did Turner save? At least two and possibly three if the ball goes into the gap and perhaps more as that inning would have continued. Instead, Turner made another huge play in a game for his team as he often has done this season with his bat, speed, glove, and his baseball acuity.
The bullpen was anchored by Wander Suero who threw two scoreless innings on 32-pitches, and while that was unconventional — it worked. There are few easy outs in the Braves lineup, and Suero and Doolittle combined to get 11-outs in the game because starter Anibal Sanchez hit the wall hard in the 6th inning and never retired a batter although it certainly looked like he was squeezed by the umpire. The Nats bullpen had to cover four full innings.
One of the issues in the game was four stolen bases which the Braves swioed off of a combination of the Nats pitchers and catcher Kurt Suzuki. Also in the game, Suzuki had a key error on swinging bunt. Suzuki is mired in a slump going 1-for-his-last-14, and he has not been running well.
In SunTrust Park, they had their second largest crowd ever at 42,467 for this game that most expected Soroka would dominate for the Braves. This was one of the Nats biggest wins of the season, and the Nats have guaranteed worst case a series split in this 4-game series. The Nats are up 4-1 in games in Atlanta this season.
After the game it was confirmed that Joe Ross would get a spot start in place of Austin Voth who had some shoulder discomfort. There is also an indication that Michael Blazek will join the bullpen, and his activation will require a 40-man move. Two months ago, Blazek was playing in independent baseball for the Lincoln Saltdogs in Nebraska, and independent baseball not only does not pay much — it is also a place where most baseball dreams fade away. Fortunately for Blazek, his agent Kevin Kohler has done prior business with G.M. Mike Rizzo signing Justin Miller and All-Star Brandon Kintzler, and relationships matter. When Kohler sent Rizzo a message back in May about Blazek, they signed a minor league deal. The rest was on Blazek who figured out his game in July and received high marks from Randy Knorr and pitching coach Brad Holman with Triple-A Fresno.