Atlanta’s lineup had a big night at the plate, as Matt Olson’s three RBIs and home runs from Austin Riley, Orlando Arcia, and Adam Duvall helped give the Braves the space they needed to hold off a late rally from the Nationals on their way to an 8-4 victory.
As indicated in the first sentence, this was yet another night where the Braves wasted no time jumping on their opponent. Patrick Corbin has had a nightmarish time pitching against the Braves since the start of the 2020 season and tonight was no exception from the words ‘Play Ball.’ Luis García didn’t help matters, as his bad throw on what should’ve been a routine groundout for Dansby Swanson ended up being the start of a big opening inning for Atlanta. Dansby ended up on second by the time that play ended and then Matt Olson capitalized by bouncing one into left field to start the scoring for the Braves.
That set the stage for Austin Riley and on the fourth pitch of his at-bat, Corbin left a “sinker” high and in the zone. Riley took the gift and promptly sent it soaring through D.C. sky for a two-run homer to make it 3-0 in favor of the Braves. Matt Olson was far from done tonight after his first-inning RBI single started the scoring. Olson suddenly had another RBI opportunity in the very next frame and this time it went into Olson’s usual spray area of right field to make it 4-0.
Atlanta added on another run later on in the fourth inning and surprise, surprise, Matt Olson was the man who drove in the run. Once again, Olson came to the plate with a man on second (after Ronald Acuña Jr. singled and then picked up his 20th stolen base of the season) and bounced a low sinker from Corbin through the middle of the infield to bring home Acuña and push Atlanta’s lead to five runs. That ended up being the third and final RBI single of the night for Olson, who continues what’s been a very good week at the plate. The only surprise is that he didn’t hit a homer or a double tonight — all of his damage was done via relative small-ball.
While Matt Olson may have been done putting RBIs on the board, the rest of the Braves weren’t finished. Orlando Arcia in particular wanted to get in on the fun and he did just that in the fifth inning with two outs. Arcia only saw two strikes from Corbin in this at-bat and they were located in nearly the same spot. The first pitch went for a called strike. The second pitch landed in the red seats in center field to make it 6-0 at that point. Patrick Corbin exited the game after the fifth inning and surely he’s probably one of the happiest guys in the Nationals clubhouse to know that Washington won’t see the Braves after this series until September.
On the other side of things, Ian Anderson was actually going pretty smoothly for the first five innings of this game. Then the sixth inning barrier popped up and blocked him once again. It’s always tough dealing with the Josh Bell-Juan Soto-Nelson Cruz portion of the lineup and sure enough, Bell hit a double to lead off the inning and then Soto walked to put runners at the corners. Anderson gave up another walk with one out and that ended up being the end of his night. The run eventually came home to score when Collin McHugh plunked César Hernández to put the Nationals on the board. McHugh picked up a fly out to end the inning and put Ian Anderson’s line at 5.1 innings pitched, five strikeouts, five hits, three walks and just the one run allowed. It would’ve been very nice to see him get through six but I’m sure the Braves will take what they can get from Anderson right now.
The good news is that the Braves got that run back in the very next frame. Adam Duvall began a late-game surge with a one-out double and then William Contreras brought Duvall in with a single to restore the six-run lead. I say that this was a late-game surge for Duvall because he absolutely crushed one 456 feet into the seats in left-center to make it an 8-1 lead for the Braves. That was the end of the scoring for Atlanta tonight and that should’ve made for a comfortable ending of this game.
Instead, things got a bit complicated in the bottom of the ninth inning. Will Smith came on and had an absolute devil of a time just getting two outs. After getting the first out, the Nationals went double-single-single to make it an 8-2 ballgame. Following a flyout, Smith then proceeded to walk Josh Bell on five pitches. He then ran into Juan Soto and promptly walked Soto on four pitches to make it 8-3 before petulantly yelling at Soto to get to first base in a timely manner.
The uninspiring performance from Will Smith ended up forcing A.J. Minter into what was suddenly a save situation. Minter didn’t make things easy either, as he put another run on Smith’s line with a wild pitch and then finished up that at-bat by walking old friend Ehire Adrianza to inexplicably bring the tying run to the plate. Minter finally calmed the nerves of all the Braves fans who were watching by striking out Keibert Ruiz to finally end the game.
For eight-and-a-half innings, this was a pretty dominant performance for the Braves. The wobble at the end is concerning but it’s also the beauty of baseball — there’s no clock to run out and a Major League team is usually going to keep fighting until the end of the game. The Nationals did just that with their ninth inning performance, but fortunately Atlanta had built up a big enough cushion from earlier in the game to get the final three outs to lock down the win.
That’s now eight-straight wins for the Braves against the Nationals this season to give them a 9-2 record overall. That’s exactly what you need to do against cellar-dweller teams in your own division and hopefully Atlanta will be able to keep on walloping Washington with a series win tomorrow.