The Braves entered play with eyes on carving another two games off their magic number, and Dallas Keuchel certainly did his part in aiding that effort. The Braves earned a 4-3 win behind a masterful performance from the left-hander, cutting their magic number to 13 in the process.
The Nationals mounted an immediate rally in the first inning, as Trea Turner and Howie Kendrick each singled to begin play, then Juan Soto drew a one-out walk to load the bases. Keuchel managed to induce a 6-4-3 double play from Ryan Zimmerman to end the threat, which would set the tone for a dominant performance the rest of the way.
The Braves got on the board first, as Ozzie Albies drove a Patrick Corbin offering into the seats in left-center field, giving Atlanta a 1-0 lead in the third inning. To that point, Corbin had worked a lot of deep counts, but had managed to escape trouble. Albies had doubled in his previous at-bat, and was clearly dialed in, as he so often is from the right side.
The Braves extended their lead to 2-0 in the fourth inning as Tyler Flowers lined a sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Adam Duvall, who had doubled off the right field wall. Flowers has been better at the plate of late, and worked two walks in his other plate appearances tonight.
In the top-half of the fifth inning, back-to-back singles by Yan Gomes and Michael Taylor to lead off the inning placed Keuchel in a precarious position. Once again, the left-hander was up to the task as he worked through Corbin, Turner, and Kendrick to deny the Nationals and continue his outstanding work.
Corbin, meanwhile, labored in each of the five innings he completed as the Braves worked deep counts and reached base. He would exit with a final line of: five innings, two runs (one earned), three hits, six walks, and nine strikeouts. The left-hander lived up to his billing with regards to swing-and-miss stuff, but struggled with command throughout his outing.
Keuchel would exit after the sixth inning, having shut out the Nationals with six hits, two walks, and three strikeouts. Over his last five starts, Keuchel has now allowed just three runs across 31 innings. The left-hander has helped stabilize an Atlanta rotation that has been dominant of late, and seems to be rounding into form at the perfect time.
In the seventh inning, Josh Donaldson brought the rain with a two-run home run to left field off Wander Suero, giving the Braves a 4-0 lead. The Washington bullpen continues to be a major source of concern, and Donaldson did his part to renew those concerns.
Consequently, the Braves bullpen found a bit of trouble tonight as well, which has been a rarity over the past three weeks. In the eighth, the Nationals got singles from Kendrick and Anthony Rendon to lead off the inning against Luke Jackson. After a Soto strikeout, Ryan Zimmerman blasted a three-run homer to left field, cutting the Atlanta lead to just 4-3. Sean Newcomb would enter with one out, promptly retiring the next two batters to end the inning.
With Mark Melancon working hard a night ago, the Braves turned to Shane Greene in the ninth inning. The right-hander was electric, striking out the first two batters before a Trea Turner ground out back to the mound ended the game. The victory shrinks the Braves’ magic number to 13, extends their division lead to nine, and extends their winning streak to eight.
Overall it was an incredible performance by Dallas Keuchel, a productive win for the Braves, and another day off the calendar as Atlanta pushes toward another NL East title. The Braves will host the Nationals for two more games this weekend as they look to continue their torrid pace.