The Braves were late to announce their starting pitcher for the game on Tuesday, but they chose very well in giving the ball (and bat) to Huascar Ynoa. The right-hander suffocated the Nationals offense, but more impressively, backed his own cause with a sixth-inning grand slam in route to a 6-1 Atlanta victory.
Each leadoff hitter began the first inning with a single, and were subsequently erased with inning-ending double plays two batters later. That began a string of ten straight batters retired for Huascar Ynoa, who continued his great work for the season. He managed to fire seven innings, allowing only an unearned run on four hits with four strikeouts. He was outstanding on the mound, but as noted above, his best work came with the bat.
Following a Ronald Acuna solo homer in the fourth inning, the Braves owned a 1-0 lead. They carried that lead into the sixth inning, when they pushed across another run on a William Contreras RBI single to extend the advantage to 2-0. Cristian Pache followed with a walk, then the hammer dropped. Ynoa hit an absolute missile to dead center field, homering for the second consecutive start and giving the Braves a 6-0 lead. Oddly enough, the last Atlanta pitcher to hit a grand slam was Jaime Garcia, who in 2017 was traded to the Twins in exchange for...Huascar Ynoa.
The Nationals would score a run off Ynoa in the seventh inning, but it was unearned after Cristian Pache misplayed a single in the outfield, allowing Josh Bell to reach third on what should have been a single. Still, a five run lead was enough for Ynoa and the Atlanta bullpen as Tyler Matzek and AJ Minter mowed down the Nationals to secure a series-opening victory.
Ynoa improves his record to 3-1 on the season and now owns a 2.36 ERA. His inclusion in the rotation has helped keep the Braves afloat thus far, and his bat has been incredible. His two homers in 11 at-bats matches the homer total of Braves catchers in 112 at-bats this season. Not to be overshadowed, Ronald Acuna took over sole possession of the home run race with his fourth inning blast, his tenth of the season. He continues to carry the offense and appears to be progressing well in the aftermath of his abdominal strain two weeks ago.
The Braves will get two more shots at the Nationals, with an opportunity to earn a series win tomorrow. Let’s hope that the rest of the rotation can follow the lead of Ynoa, who has placed himself squarely into the Rookie of the Year conversation with his performance thus far. This was a great start to the series for Atlanta.