In a game that never really felt too comfortable for either team, the Braves ended up taking care of business against the Nationals.
The Braves ended up facing Washington’s bullpen for all but two outs of tonight’s contest and ended up with only three runs via home runs from Travis d’Arnaud and Dansby Swanson. That somehow ended up being enough for Atlanta to take the series win, as the pitching staff tenuously held on to the lead in tonight’s game.
The first few innings came and went without much incident, though it absolutely has to be mentioned that the Nationals were thrown into a bit of a tough spot pretty early on. Patrick Corbin only threw 12 pitches tonight before exiting the game in the first inning due to injury. Washington was already banking on tomorrow afternoon being a bullpen game, so this meant that the bullpen game was coming a day early.
With that being said, Washington’s relievers stepped up to the occasion and didn’t let the game get out of hand. Still, it’s pretty difficult to keep the Braves quiet for an entire game and things did eventually get loud in the fourth inning. After Charlie Morton escaped a bases loaded jam without giving (where he ended up with the bases full following two walks and a hit batsman), the lineup rewarded Morton with a quick one-out rally.
Matt Olson kept things going in the right direction as he picked up a single and then Travis d’Arnaud ambushed Erasmo Ramírez by clubbing a souvenir ball out into the seats in left-center for a two-run bomb. Atlanta could’ve been in trouble in the top of the fourth, but instead found themselves in the lead in the bottom of the fourth.
Following a clean fifth inning, Charlie Morton got the ball to go out for the sixth inning despite having a relatively high pitch count. Morton got a strikeout to lead off the sixth but then proceeded to give up a double (to Joey Meneses, what else is new) and a single to leave runners on the corners for Collin McHugh to come in and clean up.
McHugh induced a ground ball out of César Hernández that was seemingly tailor-made for a double play. Instead, Vaughn Grissom threw the ball into left field and that brought in Washington’s first run on the game on the error. McHugh was able to keep the Nationals from doing further damage, so the Braves remained in the lead and then McHugh also added on a very clean seventh inning in order to hand the baton to A.J. Minter.
After Minter got done sitting down the Nationals in the eighth inning, the Braves were hunting for insurance heading into the ninth inning. They got it in the form of a monster moonshot from Dansby Swanson, who fouled off four pitches before absolutely smashing an opposite field moonshot into the Chop House for a solo shot to restore the two-run lead for Atlanta.
The Braves took that two-run lead into the ninth inning and it was up to Kenley Jansen to close things out. The Nationals then rudely welcomed Jansen to the game by getting both of their first two batters on base via bunt — the second batter getting on due to an error on Matt Olson. Jansen then proceeded to rack up two straight strikeouts while the Nationals continued to test their luck with the power of the bunt.
Luis García then made things even more uncomfortable as he picked up a single to make it 3-2 while moving the tying run to third base and eventually stealing second base, himself. With the go-ahead run in scoring position, Jansen had to make it happen and after an intentional walk of Joey Meneses, Jansen eventually made it happen. Luke Voit harmlessly hit a fly ball out into the glove of Michael Harris II to end the game and give the Braves the series win.
It definitely got a little nervy at the end, but Kenley Jansen was able to get the save and preserve the victory for the Braves. As of the time that this article was published, the Mets were leading the Brewers by two runs in the late stages of their game, so while the Braves may not gain any ground in the division, they could end up celebrating a postseason berth by the end of the night. They may not want to celebrate too much, though (and not because of any wet blanket reasons like “they’ve got bigger things to go for”) — tomorrow’s game starts at 12:20 PM E.T.