Walks were a question mark for Sean Newcomb when he was in the minor leagues, but those problems seemingly disappeared when he came to the big leagues.
Newcomb walked either one or two hitters in four of his first five starts, but three of the four walks he issued on Sunday came around to score as the Washington Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves, 10-5, at Nationals Park in the teams’ final game before the All-Star break.
Five of Washington’s 10 runs in the game came by way of a baserunner who reached on a walk, lifting the Nationals to a series split and helping them maintain a 9.5 game lead in the NL East through the season’s unofficial first half.
Newcomb began things in troubling fashion, walking Brian Goodwin and Wilmer Difo to lead things off in the first inning, right ahead of the trio of Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy.
Newcomb paid for it, as Harper singled to load the bases and Zimmerman hit a sacrifice fly to put Washington ahead 1-0. The Nationals tacked on two more on Anthony Rendon’s two-run double to put them up 3-0 after an inning of play.
The Braves fought back in the third inning in similar fashion, as Nationals starter Joe Ross walked Ender Inciarte and Johan Camargo consecutively with two outs. Freddie Freeman cashed those in with a three-run home run to tie the game at 3-3.
But after Newcomb settled down for the second and third innings, he walked the first two hitters once again in the fourth inning, and Chris Heisey’s double put the Nationals back ahead, 4-3.
If there is a silver lining, Newcomb rallied to strike out the next three hitters, but his day was done after four innings. He allowed just four hits, but the four walks and seven strikeouts made the 97 pitches pile up in a hurry.
Ross exited the game after 3 1⁄3 innings with an apparent injury, and the thought of the Nationals bullpen having to navigate the final 5 2⁄3 innings had to have the Braves feeling positive.
The Nationals extended the lead to 6-3 in the fifth inning, as Ian Krol surrendered a walk and three straight singles, capped off by Matt Wieters’ two-run knock.
Camargo led off the sixth inning with his first career homer and Nick Markakis cut the deficit to 6-5 after his RBI groundout later in the inning. Camargo continues to impress, as he picked up three hits for the second day in a row, hitting in the two-hole on Sunday.
Washington scored another run after Jose Ramirez walked Rendon, and he advanced all the way to third when he stole second and the throw skipped into center field. Wieters’ sac fly gave his team the 7-5 lead.
The Nationals finished off the contest with a three-run eighth, as they rocked Sam Freeman for four hits. Harper drove in one on his hit and Murphy ripped a double down the left field line to bring in two more.
The Braves are off for the All-Star break now, and will play once again on Friday, as they open up at home against the Diamondbacks.