R.A. Dickey had really struggled in his last few outings, having allowed 17 runs in 14 and 1⁄3 innings so far in September. So, of course, he went out and dominated the Nationals tonight as the Braves snapped a four-game losing streak with a 3-2 victory.
Ender Inciarte, returning to the lineup after missing a few starts with a hand injury, immediately made his presence felt against Washington starter Tanner Roark, lacing a leadoff triple. A few pitches later, Ozzie Albies hit a hard grounder to first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who was totally eaten up by the ball, allowing Inciarte to score easily. Roark recovered by eliciting a fly out from Freddie Freeman and a tailor-made double play ball from Nick Markakis.
What Zimmerman gave up in the field, he immediately got right back in the top of the second. After working a full count, Zimmerman deposited the sixth knuckler he saw from Dickey, which stayed on the upper, inside corner of the zone, deep into the left-field seats to knot the game at one apiece. That’s how the game remained, with both Dickey and Roark putting up the zeroes, until the Braves decided to do something about it in the bottom of the fourth.
Albies led that half-inning off with a groundball single up the middle. With Freeman taking a pitch in the dirt, Albies drew an errant snap throw to first base from catcher Matt Wieters, advancing to third on the misplay. That set up an easy Freeman sacrifice fly to give the Braves the lead. After that, things got a little weird. Nick Markakis hit a grounder that was very similar to the one Albies hit to drive in the game’s first run. It also ate up Zimmerman at first, and Markakis was able to take second as the ball rolled into right field. Tyler Flowers then hit a sharp grounder to a perfectly-positioned Daniel Murphy at second for the second out, but Johan Camargo did pretty much the same thing with a different defensive alignment, this time for an RBI single that would cap the scoring. Lane Adams then followed with an infield single to push Camargo into scoring position, but Dansby Swanson ended the inning with a hard liner to left. But, like I said, things got weird. I mean, what are the chances of the below?
Yes, Virginia, that is five straight balls in play with a hit probability of just six percent separating them. And yes, that’s a double, two singles, and two outs. Weird.
Anyway, that was all the scoring the Braves would manage. Roark and Dickey would then trade zeroes for the next three innings, before the Nats scored another run in the eighth thanks to an Anthony Rendon leadoff double and then a Wieters two-out RBI single that partly made up for his throwing error earlier in the game.
More weirdness happened in the middle of the eighth, as Dusty Baker tried (unsuccessfully) to summon an Elder God or something else that took way too long. In the end, all that happened was six player substitutions, including a pitching change, but Braves fans were trying to dispel the darkness by doing the tomahawk chop with flashlights enabled on their smartphones, so I think we can just write it off as a rare episode of mass hysteria and move on with our lives.
Arodys Vizcaino slammed the door with a 13-pitch inning in which he struck out the side in 1-2-3 fashion, a welcome turnabout from his struggles last night.
The Braves collected their 68th win of the year, tying their win total last season with 11 games still left to play. Ender Inciarte collected his 191st hit, meaning he’s got nine to go to reach the 200-hit plateau in those 11 games. Ozzie Albies went 3-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI; it was his first time collecting hits in five games, as he had gone hitless during the Braves’ losing streak after a 13-game hit streak earlier in September. R.A. Dickey’s final line was eight innings, four hits, two runs, zero walks, and four strikeouts. It was only the second time this season he’s gone eight innings, but also the second time in five starts. Tanner Roark went seven innings, allowing three runs on six hits and no walks, with seven strikeouts.
The homestand continues with the Phillies coming to town over the weekend. Sean Newcomb will face off against Ben Lively on Friday night.