Baseball can certainly be a game of contrasts. You can win or lose a game for so many different reasons, with the narratives of games developing in so many different forms. It is really fun when these different styles of games occur in the same day during a double header, and that was the case Wednesday afternoon between the Braves and Nationals.
In what amounted to one of the better pitching matchups we have seen so far this season, it was no surprise seeing Stephen Strasburg come out and shut down the Braves. The surprise occurred when in each half inning after that, Huascar Ynoa matched Strasburg nearly pitch for pitch.
When Ozzie Albies singled in the top of the first inning, it seemed as if the Braves could perhaps find some success against Strasburg. However, to go ahead and end any suspense, that was not to be the case. Both Strasburg and Ynoa managed to get through the first two innings without much activity at all, but in the third inning, both teams created chances to score.
With two outs, Ronald Acuna Jr. walked and reached second base for his second steal of the season. Albies then walked, but Freedie Freeman flew out to end the inning. In the bottom of the third, Strasburg himself doubled and Victor Robles walked, which brought the Bane of the Braves, Trea Turner, to the plate. However, just like what happened to end the first game, no heroics were in store this time, as Turner grounded into a double play to end the inning.
From the top of the fourth inning through the top of the sixth inning, 15 batters combined between both teams stepped in the batter’s box, and none of them reached base. On the afternoon, Ynoa was brilliant, delivering the exact performance the Braves needed. Over five innings, he allowed two hits, one walk and produced five strikeouts. Of his 68 pitches, 44 were strikes, including several first pitch strikes. It seems as if the Braves may have found their solution to hold down the fifth starter spot until Mike Soroka returns.
After the top of the Braves order looked helpless in top of the sixth inning, Luke Jackson entered the game and did what he does best. The “Disciple of Drama” allowed Victor Robles to walk, steal second, and then advance to third on a Turner fly out. Juan Soto then was intentionally walked and also made it to second. However, Jackson was able to end the threat on a weak grounder to himself off the bat of Starlin Castro.
As the game entered the top of the 7th inning, the Braves were likely happy that Strasburg’s day was done after he allowed one hit, two walks, and eight strikeouts. Tanner Rainey entered the game, and recorded two quick outs. However, Dansby Swanson connected with a single and that allowed for the newest three word phrase that strikes fear in pitcher’s hearts to once again ring true:
PINCH-HIT PANDA TIME!
For the second time in the first six games of the season, in a wonderful dose of Deja Vu, Pablo Sandoval delivered a two-out, two-run pinch-hit home run in the top of the seventh inning, just like he did in the first game of the year against Philadelphia. This time, it was to give the Braves the lead for good. After the Braves took a 2-0 lead, Sean Newcomb got the call in a big spot to close out the victory for the Braves. He responded by striking out the side for the win.
What a wonderful Wednesday!
Though the reason that it was wonderful may be less than ideal, this may be the happiest a baseball team has ever been to start a season 2-4. The stars shined in the first game, but Ynoa, Sandoval and Newcomb all showed just how awesome this team is in the aspect that anyone can step up and deliver in a huge moment at any given time. Along with the two wins, on a day where their ace gave up five runs in two innings, the Braves bullpen would allow only one further run over the last twelve innings of the day.
As this team has always shown the ability to do, they rebounded when they had to. Though Strasburg did shut down…