For the Braves, Sunday’s 7-0 defeat at the hands of the Nationals was a series of “couldn’t”s. The Braves couldn’t sweep the Nats. Max Fried couldn’t get back on track, and turned in an outing that, combined with his shelling in Philadelphia last time out, gave him his worst two-start stretch of the season. The Braves couldn’t get anything going offensively. The bullpen couldn’t strand Fried’s baserunners. Oh well. It happens.
Fried’s undoing came fairly quickly in this one. He worked around a two-out walk in the first, but struggled as soon as the second. Howie Kendrick led off that frame with a single, and a Victor Robles one-out double put both men in scoring position, to be brought home by a roller that narrowly evaded Ozzie Albies’ outstretched glove off the bat of Yan Gomes. Fried managed to end that frame thanks to a bunt-into-double-play by former teammate and mound opponent Anibal Sanchez, but things got even worse for the Braves in the third.
Two singles by Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon put runners on the corners with one out, and Fried walked Juan Soto on five pitches to load the bags. Kendrick then hit a broken-bat bloop into shallow center to make it 4-0 in Washington’s favor. After a four-pitch walk to Brian Dozier and just 65 pitches, Fried was sent to the showers. His final line: 2 1⁄3 innings, three walks, and just two strikeouts. It was his shortest non-injury-shortened outing of the season.
Jeremy Walker came on to relieve Fried and lived up to his name, issuing a five-pitch walk to Robles to push across the fifth tally charged to Fried. Walker did get Gomes to hit into a double play afterwards, but the Braves were now down 5-0.
Meanwhile, the bats just did nothing against Anibal Sanchez. It wasn’t really for a lack of trying: they had two barrels in the first two innings, hit three balls over 100 mph, and four balls with a hit probability above 50 percent... but in all that, managed just three hits and a walk against the veteran righty.
The top of the fifth was a great summary of the “oh well”-ness of this game for the Braves. Matt Joyce worked a full count and took a borderline pitch for strike three for the first out, leading to his ejection after he complained. Brian McCann then nearly hit a pitch out of the ballpark, but it hit off the top of the fence and went for just a single thanks to Heap’s lack of wheels. Dansby Swanson similarly drove a pitch to right that was caught right at the wall. The Braves could have been on the receiving end of a 5-3 score had they gotten a few more inches in the inning, but it was not to be.
As the Braves struggled with Sanchez, a procession of their relievers struggled to keep the Nats off the board. Walker threw a scoreless fourth, but Grant Dayton gave up a solo homer to Kendrick in the fifth. Anthony Swarzak yielded yet another tally in the sixth on a very odd double play (3-6-5, non-force at third base) that ended the inning. Chad Sobotka issued two walks and allowed a hit in his seventh, but no runs came across thanks to a double play. Lastly, Kyle Wright came on for the eighth and had the best outing among Braves of the day, striking out two and getting a groundout on just 13 pitches. Hunter Strickland and Sean Doolittle closed the game out for the Nats, allowing just a single to Austin Riley, who came on to relieve Freeman of duty, in the process.
The magic number remains at four, and the Braves will get an off-day on Monday to lick their wounds, both superficial and not. They will then begin their final homestand of the year by hosting the Phillies starting Tuesday. The Braves finish their season series against the Nationals 12-8, winning the set for a second consecutive year. It was the fourth time they have been shut out so far in 2019.