The Braves managed a split with the Nationals after Thursday’s 5-1 win at Truist Park. They did so behind a four-run sixth inning and the arm of starter Tucker Davidson.
Here are five takeaways from Thursday:
1. Davidson is pitching his way into more regular opportunities. The Braves’ lefty, promoted for a spot start, pitched well, holding the Nationals to one hit and no runs over 5-2/3 innings. He held the Nationals hitless for the first four innings. In the fifth, after the first two hitters reached, he retired the next three, without the runners even advancing. He exited with two on and two out in the sixth, with Josh Tomlin ending the frame by inducing a flyout by Victor Robles.
“I thought he was really good, just like he was the last time,” manager Brian Snitker said. “He was aggressive, stuff was live. He was throwing strikes. His slider has become a real pitch for him. I thought he was very aggressive all day. He threw a lot of strikes. Very impressive outing.”
Braves 5, Nationals 1 (box score)
2. Davidson was effective but walked five Nationals. Davidson’s control will make or break him as a starter. He’s been inconsistent throughout his minor-league career in that area, and he’s now walked 10 in his first 13-1/3 major-league innings. Nonetheless, there’s been more good than bad with the 25-year-old.
Among the positives: his slider. Davidson formerly was a fastball-curveball pitcher. Adding the slider has accelerated his ascent. The pitch was key in escaping danger in the fifth, when Davidson used it to strike out Alex Avila with two on and none out, eventually leading to a scoreless inning.
“It’s come so far, even from quarantine last year when I was really working on it, trying to find the shape and add velocity to it,” Davidson said. “It’s become a real weapon for me. It helps me get into counts when the curveball isn’t there or the fastball isn’t there. I can use it behind in the count or 3-2 or even a put-away pitch. It’s such a weapon for me. I’m still learning how to use it each outing. I can’t wait to see where it goes.”
3. Nationals southpaw Patrick Corbin quieted the Braves through five innings, but the team finally solved him in the sixth, scoring four runs. Ronald Acuna’s single sparked the surge. Ozzie Albies followed with a hit, scoring Acuna for the game’s first run. Albies scored on Austin Riley’s double.
4. Two Braves recorded their 500th career hits Thursday. Shortstop Dansby Swanson, who’s sporting a career-best 12-game hitting streak, notched his 500th hit with a two-run homer to complete the Braves’ sixth-inning awakening.
Albies earned his 500th hit as well, lacing an RBI double off the wall in the seventh to cap his three-hit day. Albies has a hit in eight of his past 10 games, including six multi-hit efforts. Albies has seven hits in three games to start this month.
5. Riley made a clutch play at third base in the sixth. He snagged a hard-hit ball from Ryan Zimmerman that would’ve made it down the left-field line and possibly scored Josh Harrison from first. Instead, Riley fired a throw to second on his knee, getting the lead runner.
“Huge play,” Davidson said. “He’s played tremendous third base. Whenever those guys make those plays for you, you can’t do anything but smile and be so grateful that they’re over there. He’s hitting the ball well, he’s playing good third base, and I think the Braves found their third baseman for a while.”
Stat to know
24-15 (The Braves moved to 24-15 when their starter goes at least five innings)
“I’m trying to keep the momentum rolling, whether I’m here or in (Triple-A) Gwinnett. ... It’s a long season, and I know the way this game works, we’re going to need all the guys on the 40-man roster at some point this year. So whenever my opportunity calls, just be ready.” - Davidson
The Braves open a three-game series against the Dodgers on Friday. Ian Anderson, who faced the Dodgers twice during last October’s National League Championship Series, will start the opener against Dodgers southpaw Julio Urias.