The Braves needed a jolt and Ronald Acuna delivered a lightning strike, depositing the first pitch of the game from Max Scherzer over the fence for his 20th career leadoff home run (piling onto his franchise record count). Scherzer’s first pitch of the season was sub-optimal for him. Ozzie Albies struck out swinging before Freeman hit a homer of his own off Scherzer for his first hit of the season. Marcell Ozuna popped out and Travis d’Arnaud lined out to end an explosive first inning.
After Drew Smyly had a breezy 1-2-3 first, striking out Trea Turner (!!!) and Juan Soto (!!!)in the process, Dansby decided to get in on the party, adding on a solo home run of his own to right center to lead off the second. Riley, Pache, and Smyly went down in order after the Dansby bomb.
Smyly allowed a single and a ground ball that was ruled an error by Albies before giving up a double to score two runs after striking out the first two batters, but Lucroy got thrown out trying to take third on the throw home to end the inning with the score at 3-2 Braves. The runs were ruled unearned due to the error ruling against Albies.
Fortunately for Atlanta, Ronald Acuna decided to transform into a flaming inferno for the day, so he hit his second homer of the day to lead off the third inning. Ozuna dropped in a two out single after strikeouts from Albies and Freeman, but the offense was unable to do any more damage. Unfortunately the notorious Braves killer Trea Turner hit a two run home run after a walk from Victor Robles to tie the game in the bottom of the third inning. Smyly was able to work around a Ryan Zimmerman single to escape the inning with no more runs.
Two strikeouts and a well hit fly out to the center field warning track were all the Braves’ bats could put together in the top of the fourth. Smyly bounced back with a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts to hold the tie in the bottom of the inning. Ronald Acuna did not homer in a third straight plate appearance, as the Braves went down in order for the top of the fifth. Smyly worked another 1-2-3 inning in the fifth. The game had suddenly turned into a pitching duel, as the Braves made it a second straight 1-2-3 inning for Scherzer. A clearly settled Drew Smyly got through the sixth without any trouble, getting two groundouts and a flyout.
Two singles from Riley and Pache spelled trouble for Washington with one out in the seventh, as they dipped into their bullpen. The Panda worked a good plate appearance to walk and bring Ronald Acuna to the plate with one out and the bases loaded, who promptly hit a weak chopper for a fielder’s choice that resulted in a run, with the runners still on third and second. This was the end of Kyle Finnegan’s appearance out of the Nationals’ bullpen. Unfortunately, Ozzie Albies grounded out (very sharply) on the next at-bat to end the inning’s threat.
Tyler Matzek was brought in to try to shut down the bottom of the Washington order. He...did not exactly do that as he got two outs, but allowed a single and two walks before being pulled for...Josh Tomlin with the bases loaded facing Trea Turner. Fortunately, Tomlin got Turner to fly out on a hanging curveball as Braves fans everywhere breathed a sigh of relief.
An Ozuna walk was the only baserunner for Atlanta in the eighth, although d’Arnaud had a very loud flyout. AJ Minter got the call from the bullpen in the bottom of the eighth and allowed two one-out singles as well as a walk to once again load the bases for the Nationals. Andrew Stevenson then hit a sharp ground ball to score a run and keep the bases loaded. Johnathan Lucroy was up next and hit a ground ball to Austin Riley, who smartly went home for the forceout. Yadiel Hernandez lined out to Marcell Ozuna for the final out of the inning, leaving the score tied at 5-5 heading into the top of the ninth.
Austin Riley struck out swinging to lead off the inning. It was at this point that Cristian Pache came through with his first career regular season home run to give the Braves the lead...or so we thought...maybe? The kid took the trip around the bases before the umpires discussed it and called it foul. Brian Snitker then challenged the call to no avail before Pache struck out as the official result of the plate appearance. Johan Camargo came in next to pinch hit and drew a walk to bring Ronald Acuna to the plate with two outs, as Inciarte came in as a pinch-runner for the less-than-spry Camargo. Unfortunately, Ronald grounded out to end the inning.
Will Smith got the call to try and send the game to extra innings and immediately allowed a first pitch single to Victor Robles and hit Trea Turner with a pitch to bring Juan Soto to the plate with two on and no outs in a tie ballgame in the bottom of the ninth, which is...not what you want from an Atlanta perspective. Soto predictably ended the game with an RBI single, continuing a frustrating beginning to the season for Atlanta.
Despite the disappointment, we’ll be back tomorrow for a doubleheader at noon on Wednesday. Surely they can’t get swept in the doubleheader with Max Fried on the mound for one of the games...right? Let’s hope not.