Offense, Ynoa lead way Wednesday in Braves’ doubleheader sweep

Atlanta Braves' Pablo Sandoval watches his two-run homer during the seventh inning of the second baseball game of a doubleheader against the Washington Nationals, at Nationals Park, Wednesday, April 7, 2021, in Washington.The Braves won the second game 2-0. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Atlanta Braves' Pablo Sandoval watches his two-run homer during the seventh inning of the second baseball game of a doubleheader against the Washington Nationals, at Nationals Park, Wednesday, April 7, 2021, in Washington.The Braves won the second game 2-0. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

The Braves finally are in the win column. Twice. They swept Wednesday’s doubleheader in Washington, taking Game 1 7-6 and Game 2 2-0. Both games went seven innings in accordance with MLB’s doubleheader rule.

The first game was a shootout. The Nationals scored four times in the first inning to take a 4-1 lead. The Braves answered with five runs in the second. There were 11 combined runs scored in the first two innings.

It was a rough start for Braves ace Max Fried, who lasted only two innings. Fried surrendered five runs on eight hits and took a comebacker off his lower calf in the second inning. He needed 49 pitches to get six outs. His performance and the calf scare led the Braves to lift him early.

Fried doesn’t expect to miss a start.

“Nothing too serious, just hit me in a spot where it kind of tightened up when I got back in the dugout,” Fried said. “As of right now, I don’t plan on missing any time. Just some treatment and get ready for the next one. ... I wanted to (stay in the game today). Snit (manager Brian Snitker) made some good points and, to call a spade a spade, I wasn’t really effective today. So I knew for me to push back out there not being at my best, and also physically a little down, I knew that wasn’t going to be the best thing for the team.”

Despite Fried’s struggles, the Braves matched the Nationals’ pace thanks to their work against Erick Fedde. They did their heavy damage in the second, when the first four hitters reached in a five-run inning.

Austin Riley singled to open the inning. Ender Inciarte followed with a double. Fried had a softly hit chopper that resulted in an infield hit that scored Riley. Ronald Acuna, who went 3-for-3 a day after launching two homers, singled to score Inciarte and cut Washington’s lead to 4-3.

Ozzie Albies’ ground out tied the score. Two hitters later, Travis d’Arnaud slapped a double to left that scored another two runs and gave the Braves a lead. It capped an eventful two innings, and for as unfortunate as Fried’s outing was, the Braves can take solace in their offense’s continued improvement since leaving Philadelphia.

“It was nice to see us put an inning together and not just rely on long balls,” Snitker said. “There were some really good at-bats. That was very encouraging, just seeing us keep an inning going with the way we were swinging the bats. I knew it was going to happen at some point.”

As it’s been frequently noted, the Braves scored only three runs across three games against the Phillies, losing each contest. They scored five times, four via homer, in a 6-5 loss to Washington on Tuesday. They showed even more life in Game 1 on Wednesday against Fedde, against whom they’ve historically fared well.

Of importance was that most of the Braves’ bullpen rebounded after a difficult Tuesday. Josh Tomlin, who followed Fried, didn’t allow a hit over two scoreless innings. Nate Jones and A.J. Minter each produced a scoreless frame. Will Smith ran into trouble in the ninth - as he did Tuesday - when he walked Juan Soto to begin the inning. Starlin Castro’s double scored the Nationals’ sixth run. Smith induced a double play from Andrew Stevenson to end the game.

Atlanta Braves' Pablo Sandoval watches his two-run homer during the seventh inning of the second baseball game of a doubleheader against the Washington Nationals, at Nationals Park, Wednesday, April 7, 2021, in Washington.The Braves won the second game 2-0. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Atlanta Braves' Pablo Sandoval watches his two-run homer during the seventh inning of the second baseball game of a doubleheader against the Washington Nationals, at Nationals Park, Wednesday, April 7, 2021, in Washington.The Braves won the second game 2-0. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

In Game 2, the bullpen-game plan wasn’t necessary. Huascar Ynoa delivered an unexpected gem, shutting out the Nationals in five innings. It was the deepest outing of his career.

Ynoa matched Stephen Strasburg, who was phenomenal in his six scoreless frames. Pablo Sandoval won it for the Braves, entering as a pinch-hitter in the seventh and blasting a two-run homer. It was his second pinch-hit homer of the year. Sandoval is becoming exactly what the Braves needed on their bench.

“It felt good,” Sandoval said. “I don’t want to lie, it’s one of those moments when you get goosebumps when you hit the ball. Just continue working, doing everything you can when you get those opportunities.

Ynoa’s excellence was another huge development for the Braves, who are continuously seeking depth in their rotation and bullpen. After being a sneakily important contributor last season, look for more Ynoa in 2021.

“I’m ready for whatever the team asks of me,” Ynoa said via team interpreter Franco Garcia.

Left-hander Sean Newcomb struck out the side in the bottom of the seventh to record the save. It was a promising sign for Newcomb, whom the team hopes will thrive again as a reliever.

After Thursday’s off day, the Braves open their first homestand of the season Friday against the Phillies. They’ll face the Phillies three times before hosting the Marlins for four games.

In Other News