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Early home run barrage leads Braves over Nationals, 8-3

The long ball was a factor.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

When Tuesday afternoon’s contest came to a close, it was difficult (at least for some) to imagine the Atlanta Braves emerging with a positive overall result this week against the Washington Nationals. However, a bounce-back victory in the nightcap set the table and, on Wednesday, the Braves took a series lead with an 8-3 victory in the nation’s capital.

The evening began in ominous fashion, as Mike Foltynewicz allowed a run in the opening inning to place Atlanta in a hole. Fortunately, the deficit was short-lived and (spoiler alert) never appeared again, as Charlie Culberson followed Washington’s first-inning dent with a three-run home run in the second inning to nab the lead.

From there, things were quiet in the third inning but the fourth frame featured a pair of two-run blasts, with the first coming from Tyler Flowers and something of a knockout blow arriving from the bat of Ronald Acuña. That barrage (and Acuña robbing a potential home run defensively in the bottom half) led to a 7-1 lead for the Braves and the working margin proved to be enough.

The Nationals did respond with a run in the bottom half of the fifth when Culberson committed an error and another when Bryce Harper smashed an opposite-field bomb in the sixth. That slashed the advantage to only four runs at 7-3 but the damage was thankfully done, as Luke Jackson relieved Foltynewicz with the bases loaded and two outs before escaping (on a filthy curve ball to Adam Eaton) without further blemish.

Atlanta then added to the lead in the top of the seventh inning, when Ozzie Albies reached base, advanced on a passed ball and scored on a single from Freddie Freeman. A bit of insurance felt (oddly) needed after a dicey sixth and things never felt uncomfortable again.

Dan Winkler allowed two base-runners in the seventh before finishing the inning with two strikeouts. Then, Winkler returned for a second inning of duty and emerged spotless again, setting the stage for Brad Brach in the ninth.

The veteran right-hander did encounter some trouble, allowing the first two batters to reach base. However, Brach was then able to calm down (with the help of a timely double play) to slam the door and preserve an important win.

As noted above, a few Atlanta position players enjoyed strong performances on this night. Flowers produced his first home run in a (very) long time on the way to a 3-for-4 showing and he was flanked by Culberson and Acuña. Getting the start at third base, Culberson had an issue defensively but, at the plate, he finished 2-for-4 with a home run and Acuña did all kinds of damage during a 2-for-5 night that featured the aforementioned sparkling robbery in center field and a deep home run.

On the mound, Foltynewicz wasn’t necessarily dominant, but he did emerge with a performance that was good enough to sustain victory with the help of quality offense. The right-hander failed to complete six innings (seemingly running out of gas in the process) but he allowed only three runs (one earned) and Foltynewicz struck out six over the course of a 109-pitch effort.

The same two teams will face off on Thursday afternoon in the series finale, with Anibal Sanchez set to oppose Gio Gonzalez. Stay tuned.

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