The Braves have rollicked through most of June and July, but their domination tour hit a bit of a pothole in the final game before the All-Star Break, as they dropped the finale of a four-game set in Washington by a 7-3 score. An errant throw by Austin Riley and a two-run homer by Victor Robles led to a four-run second for the Nationals, and while the Braves had plenty of chances against the Washington relief corps, they didn’t get the offensive results they needed. Also, the umpiring was horrendous.
Spencer Strider looked just fine in the first, but walked Josh Bell to start the bottom of the second. He struck out the next two batters, but things went sour when he got Maikel Franco to hit a slow roller to third. Austin Riley charged and barehanded the ball, but his throw was horrible and put runners on second and third. A hanging 1-2 slider to former Brave Ehire Adrianza got thwacked into center — it could’ve been an inning-ending lineout but Michael Harris II was shading Adrianza to sky it the other way — and the Nationals led by a couple. A few pitches later, Victor Robles crushed a 2-2 four-seamer low in the zone for a two-run homer. Actually, crushed is fairly generous, as the ball was hit under 100 mph, but it got out all the same.
Erasmo Ramirez, who threw 30 pitches in relief earlier in this series, got the start and went three scoreless. The fourth was handed over to Jordan Weems, and the Braves immediately got some runs back: Dansby Swanson singled, Matt Olson rocketed a grounder past Bell and into the right-field corner for an RBI double, Riley singled, Eddie Rosario hit a sacrifice fly, and then Adam Duvall hit a looping, should-have-been-caught double to the left-field corner that scored Riley. That was it for Weems, and sidewinding righty Steve Cishek came on to retire William Contreras and Robinson Cano with no further trouble. That was actually the only inning in which the Braves scored in this game.
Strider gave up a fourth run in the bottom of the fourth, again to a defensive lapse. After a leadoff single and a walk, Franco again hit a weak grounder to Riley. This time, Riley didn’t make an errant throw, but he also didn’t simply return to third base for the forceout; Adrianza hit a grounder on the very next pitch that scored a fifth Washington run.
Strider finished his day with one of his worst starts of the year, just a 4/2 K/BB ratio and the homer allowed in four innings of work.
Steve Cishek pitched the fifth, which ended with probably the worst strike call you’ll see this year.
Full count.— Bally Sports South (@BallySportsSO) July 17, 2022
Strike three called. pic.twitter.com/EUdRra9Zyx
After that umpire-aided scoreless fifth by Cishek, Carl Edwards Jr. came on and struck out Riley, Rosario, and Duvall in the sixth. Dylan Lee, who worked a scoreless inning after Strider departed, gave up another run in the sixth, as Bell started the inning with a leadoff single outside Robinson Cano’s “range,” and scored on a flare into center by Franco. The Braves rallied against Edwards in the seventh, as Cano reached on a grounder with a poor throw to first and Harris singled. Ronald Acuña Jr. flew out but Swanson walked to bring up Olson, who was the victim of that horrible call two innings prior. Olson worked another full count but swung at an inside curve and spun it weakly towards Edwards, who threw to first to keep it a 6-3 game.
Tyler Matzek worked a scoreless bottom of the seventh, but gave up a homer to Juan Soto in the eighth. Somewhat annoyingly, before Soto’s homer, the Braves got a leadoff walk and a barreled out off the bat of Contreras for the final out of the inning — Soto’s homer was the Nats’ only barrel in a two-homer game, while the Braves finished with two barrels, both outs. The Braves went 1-2-3 against Kyle Finnegan in the ninth to end the game, and their “first half” which is not really a first half but everyone calls it that anyway because baseball! of the 2022 season on a sour note.
Now, all eyes turn to the Mets, who are probably going to four-game-sweep the hapless Cubs, as well as the first day of the MLB Draft, which kicks off this evening.
See you in a few days!