Baseball can certainly be a game of contrasts. You can win or lose a game for so many different reasons, with the storytelling of games evolving in so many different forms. It’s really nice when these different styles of play occur on the same day during a double header, and that was the case between the Braves and Nationals on Wednesday afternoon.
In what amounted to one of the better pitching games we’ve seen so far this season, it was no surprise that Stephen Strasburg came out and retired the Braves. The surprise came when in every half inning thereafter, Huascar Ynoa Strasburg almost matched as a pitch.
When Ozzie Albies singled in the top of the first inning, it appeared that the Braves might have some success against Strasburg. But to go on and end any tension, that was not the case. Both Strasburg and Ynoa got through the first two innings without much activity, but in the third inning, both teams created opportunities to score.
With two outs, Ronald Acuna Jr. walked and moved to second base for his second stole of the season. Albies then walked, but Freedie Freeman flew out to end the inning. In the home of the third, Strasburg doubled herself and Victor Robles walked, bringing the Bane of the Braves, Trea Turner, to the plate. However, just like what happened to end the first game, this time there were no heroics to come, 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 entered the batter’s box, and none of them reached base. At noon, Ynoa was brilliant, delivering just the performance the Braves needed. More than five innings, he gave up two hits, one walk and struckout five batters. Of his 68 throws, 44 were strikes, including several first throw strikes. It seems the Braves have found their solution to hold onto fifth place on the grid until Mike Soroka returns.
After the top of the Braves-order looked helpless in the top of the sixth inning, Luke Jackson entered the game and did what he does best. The “Disciple of Drama” allowed Victor Robles to run, steal second place and then advance to third place on a Turner flyout. Juan Soto was then walked intentionally and also moved to second base. However, Jackson was able to stop the threat on a weak grounder to himself on Starlin Castro’s bat.
When the game entered the top of the 7th inning, the Braves were probably happy that the day of Strasbourg was over after giving up one hit, two walks and eight strikeouts. Tanner Rainey entered the game and hit two quick outs. However, Dansby Swanson bonded with a single and that allowed the latest three-word sentence that stirs fear in the thrower’s hearts to ring true again:
PINCH-HIT PANDA TIME!
For the second time in the first six games of the season, in a beautiful dose of Deja Vu, Pablo Sandoval delivered a two-out, two-run pinch-hit homerun in the top of the seventh inning, just as he did in the first game of the year against Philadelphia. This time it was to put the Braves in charge for good. After the Braves took a 2-0 lead, Sean Newcomb was called in a big spot to seal the Braves’ victory. He responded by striking out for the win.
What a wonderful Wednesday!
While the reason it was great may not be ideal, this may be the happiest a baseball team has ever been to start a season 2-4. The stars shone in the first game, but Ynoa, Sandoval and Newcomb all showed how great this team is in the aspect that anyone can stand up and perform at any time in a huge moment. Along with the two wins, on a day when their ace gave up five runs in two innings, the Braves bullpen would allow only one more run in the last twelve innings of the day.
Since this team has always shown that it can be done, they recovered when necessary. Although Strasbourg generally halted the attack, this Braves offense still had the six furthest hits of the day. When some of the hard-hit balls start to fall or keep flying over the fence more often, this throwing staff has shown they can provide enough support to make the Braves the best in the majors. Everyone stepped up and delivered when it was needed most, and hopefully this will be the boost this team needs to make some noise early in the season.