Game 39 Recap: Nationals Break It Open Late In 10-4 Win

Remember the Braves-Nationals game on June 21st of last season? No? You’re not neck deep in random memories of old games? Let me refresh your memory. 

It was Dallas Keuchel’s first start as a Brave, and the Braves jumped out to a 3-0 lead early against Stephen Strasburg. But Ozzie Albies made a brutal throwing error to start a Washington rally, and the Nationals used the opening to launch a 4-3 comeback win. There was a lot of soft contact that managed to fall in for the Nationals, and you went to bed that night feeling frustrated about an annoying loss. 

You just watched the 2020 version of that. The venue was different and there were a few more cardboard cutouts this time around, but it was the same baseball game. 

If for some reason you want to spend more time thinking about that pebble-in-your-shoe of a baseball game, let’s get into it. 

Positives: 

  • It’s hilarious how effortless Ronald Acuña Jr. makes leading off the game look. It’s like waking up at 6:30 AM and being just as productive with your work as you normally are at noon. He doesn’t need no stinkin’ coffee and he definitely doesn’t hit snooze on the alarm clock. Ronald shows up and just starts sprinting out of the blocks. He set the Atlanta Braves record for lead-off home runs tonight, and 36 away from breaking Craig Biggio’s National League record. I’ll conservatively say he breaks it by April of next season. May at the latest. 
  • The Braves gave themselves a chance in this game with a lot of good plate appearances early. Erick Fedde faced 20 batters, and eight of them worked the count full. He went to five straight full counts between the end of the second and start of the third, and he was just desperate to get ahead in the count by the time Travis d’Arnaud came up to the plate. Travis took advantage by ambushing a hanging breaking ball on the first pitch for a two-run home run. The approach at plate in the early innings was the best sign for the offense. 
  • Nobody expects Grant Dayton to throw two scoreless innings in a high leverage situation, but it’s still nice to have that pop up. Like finding a $10 bill on the street or waking up on Labor Day and remembering you have the day off. Dayton is the quietest member of the bullpen; he just comes in usually in underappreciated spots and has pitched to a 2.45 ERA for the year. 
  • The Phillies lost too, so the division lead didn’t shrink. It is officially #ScoreboardWatchingSeason. 
  • Charlie Culberson didn’t pitch tonight. Progress! 

Negatives: 

  • I guess it kind of has to start with Johan Camargo’s error. It directly led to a Washington run and probably cost Fried a chance to work what would end up being the decisive sixth inning. You never lose a game on one play, but oh boy was that one ugly, ugly play. He completely rushed a flip to second base when he had plenty of time with a slow runner coming up the first base line. The pivot point of the night was right there. 

It might be time to skip one Fried turn in the rotation; he clearly needs a breather from carrying the staff all season and his next start would come against this same opposition anyway. There’s enough of a cushion in the playoff race to give up one start for the health of your ace. 

  • I’m not going to have the Snitker conversation because I picked that bone pretty clean last night, but he made the same mistake again. Chad Sobotka was brought into a 5-4 game with all of the high leverage arms available, and a AAAA pitcher facing the middle of the lineup went exactly as well as you would expect it to. 
  • Nick Markakis is 0-for-19 in the last five days with seven strikeouts. He could probably do with an off day tomorrow, especially against a tough left-hander like Patrick Corbin
  • Maybe it’s a different game if Marcell Ozuna doesn’t swing through three straight sliders to strike out from a 2-0 count with a big chance to extend the lead in the fourth? Maybe it all goes the same way anyway? Maybe I’m just grasping at straws? Probably all of the above. 
  • Brock Holt came into this series with a .266 (!!) OPS. So of course he went 4-for-5 tonight with two doubles. I’m still waiting for Ken Rosenthal to confirm this, but I heard Dave Martinez is going to find two guys in The Battery who haven’t swung a bat since high school to fill out his lineup tomorrow, and both will pick up RBI hits. 
  • RIP Freddie Freeman’s hit streak: August 14th, 2020 — September 5th, 2020. 

Former Brave Of The Day: 

Speaking of players having really rough seasons who broke out today, Justin Upton and his season slash line of .159/.235//307 picked up three hits and three RBIs to help the Angels earn a wild 10-9 victory over the Astros. 

Quote Of The Game: 

“It’s Déjà Vu All Over Again.” 

– Yogi Berra 

Tomorrow’s Goal: 

Find a way to win the game. It sounds really basic, but losing three out of four at home to this team—especially without a healthy Juan Soto—would be really brutal. Get it done. 

62 thoughts on “Game 39 Recap: Nationals Break It Open Late In 10-4 Win”

  1. You can right the ship pretty quickly by winning this one, and then taking 2 of 3 from Miami at home. With that said, Josh Tomlin vs. Patrick Corbin isn’t a great pitching match-up.

    Do you guys think there will be fans for playoff games? NFL and college football will have fans, and probably lots of them, by that time.

  2. I turned it off in disgust after the top of the 9th. But it’s the morning after and I’m still incredulous about the bullpen management. I do understand needing to rest your best bullpen arms—so you save the high leverage guys for when they are needed most.

    But trailing by one run going to the ninth is high leverage! The odds of a Braves victory going to the final inning in the last two games were not that bad (you can look it up, but not sure I can).

    Snit, however, pretty clearly believes that he should only use his best relievers when the Braves lead or the game is tied. Trailing, even by only a run, is not a high leverage situation in Snit’s mind. Thus we saw Sobotka rather than Martin or Melancon. Note that he did use Greene and Minter in Friday’s first game when leading by 4 runs and by 6 runs.

  3. Yeah, the fact that Martin and Melancon have not appeared in games yesterday and the day before is indefensible. Ryan speculated on Twitter that maybe Martin is injured since he hasn’t appeared since Wednesday.

    There is absolutely no reason why Chad Sobotka should be pitching in a high leverage situation. No reason at all.

  4. From The Book, by Tango, Mitchel and Dolphin (if you have any interest in sabermetrics, you really need to own this book) at the top of the 9th inning (or the 7th in a doubleheader) a home team trailing by 1 has a 17.4 percent chance of winning…. The Book doesn’t mention it, but if you put Weigel or Sobotka in in that situation, the probability falls, and part of managing is to try to make that number rise.

  5. @4, I assume that the 17.4 percent chance is if you have an average offense facing an average opponent in an average run environment. Our offense is better than average, and it appears to be even stronger in the late innings (though if you say the sample size is too small to draw any conclusions, I won’t object).

  6. You are correct, James. This calculation is for average teams.

    BTW, from The Book: “We realize that an ace reliever must, at times, be used in low-leverage situations, when the manager determines he needs some work…. [But] [i]f a manager can better schedule his relievers, the ace’s leverage will go from 1.9 to 2.3. This is a 20% gain! It’s like turning someone who can impact the team by winning four more games than an average reliever into winning five more games instead…. Much too often, a manager lets his relief ace sit on the bench in high-leverage situations…. Eventually, the manager needs to give his ace some work, so he gives him whatever comes up. And this happened in almost one-fifth of ace’s appearances.”

  7. @1 I seriously doubt it. The most I’ve seen that will be allowed to attend college games is 20% capacity. Most NFL teams aren’t allowing any fans for the first two home games (and then will re-evaluate). Some teams are allowing 20-25% capacity.

  8. If we mitigated the risk of additional deficit by throwing Melancon, further mitigated it by having our best defense in, had any sort of luck with the batting order in the bottom of the 9th, then I think the percentage chance we could have tied the game probably comes into the 30% range. Just a dumb, dumb decision by Snitker unless Melancon and Martin were both unavailable. Why not just tell us?

    Now, with that said, these are regular season games, and we know he’s going to manage more aggressively in the playoffs. He’s not going to throw Patrick Weigel and Chad Sobotka in the playoffs, because they won’t be there.

  9. You’re right, Rob. We will see our better relievers more often in the playoffs. If Snit is saving innings on his best relievers so that he can ride them really hard throughout October, I respect that. They may assume that the playoffs are a lock, and these September games are best seen as tune-ups for the playoffs.
    Two caveats: old habits can be hard to break. We all remember Fredi leaving Kimbrell in the pen in the 8th inning in 2012. And we also remember September 2011. The Braves lead over the last playoff spot is currently only 4 1/2 games.

  10. I don’t know what the actual win probability was going into the final inning of each game, but I’m reasonably confident that, had we made it through the top half of the inning of both still behind by just a run, we’d have found a way to win one of the two games.

  11. “There were a lot of players moved,” Anthopoulos said. “But we had to ultimately decide: How good are these players? How much will they be an upgrade over what we already have?”

  12. That goes down as the ever-so-common K25 in the scorebook. Kinda wish the Nats would’ve had that shift on without a force play available to see what kind of carnage would’ve ensued.

  13. @4 – “The Book” is indeed an excellent book. The run expectancy tables are fascinating. Wonder how much they have changed in the current offensive environment?

    My other big takeaway from that book was stolen base value and success rate. If I recall, a runners’ success rate needs to be like 75-80% to make attempting a a steal a good choice. It does make me wish this current Braves team had a speedy bench player for October.

  14. Remind me not to let Chip teach economics. “The Nationals don’t care about the outyears of what they have to pay Corbin because they have the [WS] ring.”

  15. So far this is just the kind of start they need from Tomlin. Ought to be able to get five innings from him without facing the lineup for a third time.

  16. I mean, I get that from a cost/value standpoint they ultimately “care” about Corbin’s production and cost in, like, 2025. But assuming the goal is to actually win, I’d think the Nats will have no problem paying out the rest of Corbin’s contract. Plus, the financial windfall from winning the WS helps pay for it.

  17. I know you get it MikeM, but (a) ex post reasoning after you’ve won the World Series bears little relation to your thinking before you’ve won; (b) the number still matters, particularly when you greatly restrict your operating flexibility in the outyears; (c) DC is different that Miami, but I’m not even sure the return to winning the WS is that large and that return in any case needs to spread over all your spending, not just the spending on your #3 starter; and (d) I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have Chip teach much of anything, not just economics.

  18. @28, even though he made the inning look easy, I was holding my breath. Hope this doesn’t lead to him coming out for the 7th. By the way, it looks like Tomlin’s ERA is lower than Corbin’s.

    Seems like with 11 baserunners including 3 XBH compared to Washington’s 3 singles and no walks, we should be ahead by more than 3-1.

  19. Hit one and floodgates open!!!

    By the way, I’d let Tomlin go out for the seventh now, but I’m sure he has Martin all warmed up and will now throw him in a 6-run game after “saving him” for a week.

  20. Well, at least we’re pitching him here and not in a 1-run game in the ninth inning. On the down side, we might have to warm up Minter or somebody if he doesn’t turn it around shortly.

  21. He’s young and has a strong arm, but boy is he not a finished product. At this point he’s looking like a change of scenery guy, even though he’s only 22. He may yet have a long successful major league career in him, but he never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

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