WASHINGTON — The Atlanta Braves snapped their season-starting four-game losing streak by edging the Washington Nationals 7-6 in a doubleheader opener Wednesday with the help of three hits from Ronald Acuña Jr. and a save by Will Smith a night after he gave up a walk-off hit.
Smith, Atlanta’s fifth pitcher, didn’t have an easy time of things, though. The first batter he faced Wednesday was Juan Soto, whose RBI single in the ninth inning delivered a 6-5 victory for Washington on Tuesday.
This time, Soto led off the bottom of the seventh by walking, Starlin Castro drove him in with a double to cut Atlanta’s two-run lead in half. Another walk by Smith put the winning run on base with one out, but Andrew Stevenson grounded into a double play to end it.
Even though spectators were present — unlike last season, when they were banned —- there still was fake crowd noise piped in, offering an odd, and annoying, hum of a soundtrack.
With nary a cloud interrupting a crystal blue sky, and a temperature of 75 degrees at first pitch and climbing, the teams combined for 11 runs after merely two innings of the first seven-inning game.
The Nationals batted around in the first against Max Fried and scored four; Trea Turner’s two-run shot, his second homer in two days, was the highlight.
The Braves sent nine men up in the second and plated five against Erick Fedde to lead 6-5; Acuña, Travis d’Arnaud and starting pitcher Fried were among those who drove in runs.
Fedde (0-1) only got five outs. Fried recorded six and was followed by Josh Tomlin (1-0), who threw two hitless innings and was credited with the win.
Atlanta tacked on an insurance run in the seventh on a wild pitch by Wander Suero.
Washington is missing nine players because of a coronavirus outbreak that led to the postponement of the team’s first four games. That included Monday’s series-opener against Atlanta, which was shifted to Wednesday.
Four players tested positive for COVID-19, and another five who would have been on the 26-man roster are under quarantine because they were identified through contact tracing as having potentially been exposed to the illness.
Two of the additions from the Nationals’ alternate training site — a group that one of them, catcher Jonathan Lucroy, likened to “The Replacements,” the 2000 Keanu Reeves film about football players filling in during a strike — made their MLB debuts: Cody Wilson flied out as a pinch-hitter and lefty reliever Sam Clay struck out two in a scoreless inning.
In the doubleheader’s second game, 2019 World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg was slated to make his first start for the Nationals since being shut down after just five innings last season because he needed carpal tunnel surgery on his right wrist.
Reliever Huascar Ynoa was Atlanta’s likely starter in Game 2.
Nationals: Players under quarantine could rejoin the club on its upcoming six-game road trip, manager Dave Martinez said. “It’s a possibility. It really is,” Martinez said. “The good news is these guys are testing negative with the nasal swab and the saliva test.”
Braves: After a day off, play their home opener Friday against the Phillies, with Charlie Morton starting for Atlanta against Zack Wheeler.
Nationals: Planned to fly to California on Wednesday night; after a day off, they open a three-game set at the Dodgers on Friday. Martinez wanted his players to get a chance to rest and adjust to the time difference. “It’s been a long week,” he said. “It’s been a long week for all of us.”
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