IF, and it’s almost unnecessary to say that is a huge IF, Washington had any realistic chance to win the division (Hint: They Don’t), then they were going to have to sweep the Braves in the last series between the teams this year. But last night, Atlanta sent out Mike Soroka to duel Max Scherzer and The Maple Maddux said, “Aboot that sweep, eh?”
(No Canadians were harmed in the construction of that last sentence.)
Both starters kept the opposition off the board through 3. The difference was that the Braves were working deeper counts on Mad Max while Mad Mike was being a bit more efficient (although he was helped by a Ryan Zimmerman GIDP in the 2nd after issuing lead off walks to Juan Soto and Asdrubel Cabrera).
Atlanta got the scoring started in the top of the 4th. With one out Nick Markakis announced his return with authority by doubling. (He had singled in the 2nd, but that was more of a throat clearing announcement.) Matt Joyce then singled him in for the first run. With two down Dansby Swanson doubled deep to right to score Joyce and it was 2-0.
After the top of the 4th Freddie Freeman was removed when he aggravated his elbow diving for a grounder in the bottom of the 3rd. After the game FabFive Freddie was quoted as saying, “”I’ve had it. I’ve felt it. I’ve played through it. Just today it was kind of a little bit more than I expected. Now it’s calmed completely down so I’m hoping that I’ll wake up and be able to play tomorrow.” So turn the DefCon Level back down to 5, as it seems this is just a minor day to day issue at worst. (Hat tip to the 1980’s movie ‘Wargames’.)
The Braves added a run against Scherzer in the 5th, when Ronald Acuna Jr and Ozzie Albies led off with singles. Charlie Culberson (who replaced Freeman) attempted to sacrifice them to 2nd and 3rd, but popped up the bunt. None of the Gnats fielders could quite reach it, and it fell in front of Anthony Rendon, who forced Ozzie at second. Josh Donaldson worked a walk to load ’em up, and Markakis had what may have been his best swing of the evening, driving Victor Robles back to the wall in left center for a sac fly to score RAJ. (Not a high Can ‘o Corn fly, more of a Get On Your Horse And Get There Line Drive). Scherzer was done after the 5th, having tossed 99 pitches. Any team that can force a pitcher to average 20 tosses an inning is a very good offensive team. (Citation needed.)
Soroka finished up his evening with two 1-2-3 frames in the 5th and 6th. He tossed 94 over his six innings of work, surrendering only a 2nd inning double to Adam Eaton and 3 walks (two to Soto) against 4 punchouts. That will play in any league (especially the National).
Ozzie led off the 7th with his 23rd homer of the season to push the lead to 4-0. Chris Martin came in to pitch the bottom of the frame, and the Coldplay frontman and former Mr. Gwyneth Paltrow wasn’t as Immaculate as he was earlier in the week, but he did work a clean frame with two fly outs and a grounder.
Atlanta finished up the scoring in the top of the 8th, with Joyce leading off with a single and advancing to second on a slow roller by Tyler Flowers. Swanson worked a walk, and Rafael Ortega doubled Joyce home. (“Hey! Hey! Remember him? You know Grand Slam Man?)
Shane Greene gave up a lead off double in the 8th to Victor Robles but got three grounders to strand him at third, and with a 5 run lead Snit gave the task of finishing the game to Jerry Blevins, who tossed an Atlanta Clean Inning, with just a two out double to Soto.
Noticeably absent from this recap? Trea Turner. Mr. Dark Lord 2: Electric Bugaloo went 0-4 and Anthony Rendon, who also collected the collar at 0-4 and ended a 27 game on base streak. When you can keep those two held down, you’ve got a great chance to beat the Gnats.