5 takeaways from Braves’ doubleheader sweep in Washington

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Huascar Ynoa throws during the first inning of the second baseball game of a doubleheader against the Washington Nationals, at Nationals Park, Wednesday, April 7, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Huascar Ynoa throws during the first inning of the second baseball game of a doubleheader against the Washington Nationals, at Nationals Park, Wednesday, April 7, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

The Braves swept their doubleheader in Washington on Wednesday, earning their first two wins of the season. In Game 1, they rode a five-run second to a 7-6 win. In Game 2, Huascar Ynoa had the best showing of his career, and Pablo Sandoval hit a two-run pinch-hit homer to secure a 2-0 victory.

Here are five takeaways from Wednesday:

1. Ynoa looks like he’ll play an important role again in 2021. Ynoa is a versatile contributor, capable of making spot starts and covering bulk innings in the bullpen. He was fantastic Wednesday, pitching five scoreless innings and going pitch-to-pitch against Stephen Strasburg.

“I felt really good,” Ynoa said via team interpreter Franco Garcia. “I had a lot of confidence in my pitches. I’m glad I was able to put the team in position to win.”

Now that Mike Soroka is sidelined for additional time, the Braves will have a rotation vacancy longer than expected. They have two strong fill-in candidates with Bryse Wilson, who had a great spring, and Ynoa.

2. Pablo Sandoval has been everything the Braves hoped he’d be off the bench. He belted the game-winning two-run homer in Game 2. He also knocked a two-run pinch-hit shot on opening day.

The Braves entered the season with bench concerns, but Sandoval thus far has quelled them. He’s giving the team exactly what it needed: A bench bat with power who can change the game with one swing. His homer tied the score late on opening day, though the Braves ultimately fell short. His Wednesday work wasn’t wasted.

“It’s really hard to do what (Sandoval) just did,” manager Brian Snitker said. “To come off the bench and do what he did. The one thing about him is he’s aggressive. He was all spring, which made him attractive because no situation will be too big. It’s hard to do that twice in one week.”

3. Starter Max Fried pitched only two innings in Game 1. He struggled, allowing five runs on eight hits, but more notably, the southpaw was hit in the lower calf by a comebacker during the second inning. He completed the frame but left afterward.

It doesn’t that appear Fried suffered an injury that will sideline him. He said he initially wanted to stay in the game, but after talking with Snitker, he knew, given his performance and physical condition, that wasn’t for the best. Nonetheless, the Braves can breathe a sigh of relief their prized lefty is OK.

4. Sean Newcomb continues to see himself as a starter, yet his best work over the past two-plus seasons has undoubtedly come in the bullpen. Newcomb pitched the final inning in Game 2, striking out the side to earn his second career save.

“He started feeling it, it looked like,” Snitker said. “That’s closer stuff right there with that fastball.”

5. Josh Tomlin has been the Braves’ unsung hero over the past two seasons. Like Ynoa, it appears Tomlin will be a key figure once again. On Tuesday, he retired Braves killer Trea Turner in a high-leverage spot. Then he put out the fire in Game 1 on Wednesday, taking over for Fried and pitching two scoreless innings.

Tomlin’s outing proved crucial. It weathered the storm and helped the Braves earn their first win of the season.

“I told him, he’s the ultimate Swiss Army knife,” Snitker said. “You can use him in any situations. It was great because right there we’re thinking maybe we can get him in there and settle the whole thing down for a little bit. He did exactly that.”

Stat of the game:

7-1 (The Braves are now 7-1 in seven-inning contests dating to last season. Maybe they should campaign for regularly scheduled doubleheaders.)

Quotable:

“It’s one of those moments when you get goosebumps when you hit the ball.” – Sandoval on his pinch-hit homer

Up next:

The Braves are off Thursday and begin their first homestand Friday against the Phillies. Charlie Morton will make his second start of the season. It will be a seven-game stay at Truist Park, with the Braves playing three against the Phillies and four against the Marlins.

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