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Bullpen, bench beat Nats 4-3 in 10 innings

Mike Soroka left early, but Josh Tomlin and Johan Camargo delivered the team’s fifth straight series win.

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

Mike Soroka day was cut short, but not to worry: the Braves’ bullpen and bench came up big in a 10-inning victory over the Nationals, giving the Braves their fifth consecutive series win for a second time this season. With the Phillies’ loss, the Braves now have a 6.5-game lead in the NL East before heading for a showdown with the Cubs in Chicago to start the following week.

One bright spot for the Nationals in this game was the eerie emergence of Austin Voth. An unremarkable minor league pitcher for much of his career, Voth came out of the gates slinging heat at 95-96 mph despite averaging around 91-92 mph in his prior major league appearances (all in 2018). As a result, Voth was able to keep the Braves off the board for the first three frames, allowing just two baserunners (Josh Donaldson infield single, Mike Soroka hit by pitch) in the process.

Mike Soroka, too, was cruising. He negated Trea Turner’s leadoff single in the first with a tailor-made double play ball and then retired the next four batters he faced. Unfortunately, his afternoon ended there, as he left the game for precautionary reasons in lieu of coming out for the bottom of the third. The Braves then turned the ball over to Josh Tomlin, and it went swimmingly. Tomlin allowed just one hit and zero walks in four frames of work, allowing the Braves bats to do some work. After Tomlin’s first scoreless frame, Josh Donaldson finally connected on a pitch from Voth, a 1-0 hanging slider, and put it into the center field grass beyond the wall for the first Braves run. Then, in the sixth, Ronald Acuña Jr., who had been overmatched by Voth’s fastballs his first two times up, turned 94 mph down the pipe into another solo shot. Freddie Freeman also doubled later in the frame, but was left stranded, as Voth ended his day with a six-frame, four-hit, two-run affair with a neat 7/0 K/BB ratio.

Javy Guerra took over the Voth in the seventh and retired the Braves in order, and then Tomlin gave way to Grant Dayton. Dayton got his first two men in easy fashion, including freezing Anthony Rendon with a 2-2 curveball that hugged the bottom of the zone, but then hung a first-pitch breaker to Juan Soto, who in turn broke it into center field to halve the Atlanta advantage. The Nats weren’t done, as Matt Adams singled past the shift, and against new reliever Jacob Webb, Howie Kendrick singled up the middle and then Gerardo Parra singled to left, tying the game. The Nats never led, however, as Yan Gomes popped out to end the inning.

The bullpens then traded zeroes. Pinch-hitter Matt Joyce led off the eighth against Wander Suero with a single, but a Dansby Swanson-birthed twin killing ended the frame. Anthony Swarzak worked a scoreless bottom of the frame despite allowing back-to-back singles to start it, as a rare successful application of the wheel play turned a potential sacrifice bunt into a forceout at third, and then Rendon repaid the Swanson favor by hitting into a double play himself. The ninth was comparatively less eventful: both Sean Doolittle and A.J. Minter allowed two-out baserunners but stranded them.

The tenth was Tanner Rainey’s inning for Washington, and it was against Rainey that the Braves struck. Ozzie Albies drew a one-out walk and then pinch-hitter Johan Camargo golfed a low fastball into right field for a wall-scraping two-run homer that rendered the score 4-2 in the Braves’ favor. Dansby Swanson walked with two outs in a bid to extend the lead and Freeman’s consecutive games with an RBI streak, but the Nationals replaced Rainey with Sipp and Freeman grounded out.

Ah, so the bottom of the tenth. Adventure! Excitement! Drama! Boo, hiss, but ultimately: gratification. Luke Jackson came on. He walked the leadoff man. (Bad Luke!). Kurt Suzuki looped a 62 mph exit velocity single over the infield. (Bad Baseball Gods!) Trea Turner hit a grounder that led to a forceout at second after a bobble by Swanson at shortstop, but the double play was probably unlikely with Turner running anyway. (Good Luke? Bad Swanson? Something?) That scored the runner from third, and the Nats were a swing away from walking off. But, that didn’t happen. Adam Eaton did hit a flare through the infield to put the walkoff run on first (sigh), but Anthony Rendon popped out to Freeman in foul ground. (Good Luke!) Then, on the first pitch he saw, Juan Soto hit a ball towards Dansby Swanson and was thrown out at first, ending the game.

So, an abbreviated Mike Soroka day, but a victory nonetheless, with Josh Tomlin and Johan Camargo featuring prominently in the decision. The Braves won despite being outhit 10-7 and scored all their runs on homers, which, well, you get the idea. Homers!

Oh, and in case anyone was worried about Soroka — relax!

Onward, to Chicago, where surely more adventures await.

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