Tuesday afternoon, the winless Braves took on the winless Nationals. Although, the two teams entered the game without a win for totally different reasons. Atlanta couldn’t get their bats going in their first series of the season and were swept by the Phillies. Washington’s first series of the season was postponed after several of their players tested positive for COVID-19.
Tuesday’s matchup pitted the Nationals ace, Max Scherzer, against one of the Braves newest additions, Drew Smyly. Both pitchers didn’t have their best stuff; however, they toughed it out and each made it through six innings.
Ronald Acuña got the party started with a leadoff home run on the first pitch of the afternoon — the 20th leadoff home run of his young career.
RONALD ACUÑA JR! First pitch he sees from Max Scherzer and he goes YARD!
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) April 6, 2021
Freddie Freeman then followed it up with a home run of his own two batters later, stretching the lead to two, and Dansby Swanson led off the second with another homer. Before the Nationals could even blink, they were down three runs, but they didn’t go down without a fight.
In the bottom half of the second, the Nats benefitted from an Ozzie Albies error, which kept the inning alive. The next batter — Jonothan Lucroy — would take advantage, sending a double down the line and cutting the lead to one.
The Braves would respond in the third, though, as it was Ronald Acuña again with his second home run of the game and the fourth of the afternoon for the Braves.
Unfortunately, the lead wouldn’t last long. Braves killer Trea Turner came up in the bottom half of the third with one man on and delivered a no-doubter over the left-field wall to tie the game.
It looked like the game was on the way to becoming a shootout; however, both starting pitchers would settle in. Max Scherzer was able to make it through six innings without anymore damage, finishing with nine strikeouts. Smyly also made it through six frames, striking out eight and retiring the last ten batters he faced.
The action would pick up again in the seventh, as the Braves loaded the bases for Ronald Acuña. This time, however, he wasn’t able to break the game open, but he still came through with the go-ahead RBI on a check swing grounder to the shortstop. The Braves weren’t able to add anymore after that, and fans were left holding their breath in the bottom half of the inning, as the Nationals loaded the bases themselves with two out. And guess who found themselves at the plate? That pesky Trea Turner.
To make matters worse, Brian Snitker was forced to turn to Josh Tomlin for the final out of the innings. That says a lot about the Braves situation in the bullpen when it comes to right-handed options, but nonetheless, the veteran Tomlin was able force Turner to fly out to left field, ending the Nationals’ advances.
The Braves were able to get a runner to second in the eighth, but the inning ended on a hard-hit ball to Trea Turner off the bat of Swanson. Minter entered the game for Atlanta in the bottom half, and the Nationals had all the answers. Back-to-back singles started the rally and a walk loaded the bases for Andrew Stevenson, who lined one off the glove of Riley to tie the game. Thankfully, the ball stayed in the infield, preventing another run from crossing the play, but Minter still needed two outs to get out of the jam, and the bases were still loaded.
However, the Braves hard-throwing lefty was able to take a couple of deep breathes and produce some critical pitches. Jonothan Lucroy grounded to Austin Riley, who went home for the second out of the inning, and then Minter forced Yadiel Hernandez to fly out to left field to end the scare. The two teams headed in to the final frame all knotted up.
For a brief second, it looked like Cristian Pache broke the tie. He hit a high fly ball down the left-field line that was initially ruled a home run, but after review, it was changed to a foul ball. Pache would then go on to strike out on the next pitch. Snitker turned to Camargo to pinch-hit for Minter with two outs, and Camargo was able to coax a walk, bringing up the Nationals worst nightmare one final time — Ronald Acuña. However, he couldn’t come up with the big hit this time. He hit a hard grounder to Turner, who was able to field it and turn to second for the force out.
Will Smith was given the ninth inning duties, and he immediately found trouble, as Victor Robles led off with an opposite-field single, which was followed by a hit-by-pitch, putting two men on with nobody out for Juan Soto. After falling behind 3-0, Smith went to his fastball, which Soto caught up to and delivered a single to centerfield for the walk-off, earning their first win of the season and making the Braves 0-4 on the season.
It was another disappointing afternoon for the Braves, especially considering they hit four home runs. It’s not often you lose many games like that, but they will have to wait at least one more day for their first win of the season. They’ll have to opportunities tomorrow, as they are scheduled to play a double-header against the Nats, with Huascar Ynoa starting the first game and Max Fried taking the mound in the second.
Photo: Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire