Nick Markakis hit a walk-off home run against the Blue Jays earlier this month, another in a growing list of dramatic wins the Braves have pulled off over the past several years. It also set off an odd celebration amid the coronavirus pandemic. Hands up, no touching please.
With the Braves (14-10) trailing 6-3, Markakis was hit by a pitch to lead off the ninth. Duvall followed with a line-drive home run to left field to pull the Braves within a run. It was Duvall’s fourth home run of the season. Johan Camargo followed with a single. Pinch-hitter Adeiny Hechavarria struck out and Ender Inciarte flied out to right. Swanson promptly deposited a 1-0 fastball over the centerfield fence as he and pinch-runner Charlie Culberson scored.
“I don’t even allow myself to think they are going to do it again when the inning starts,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I just kinda sit there and let it happen. When it’s over, it’s like ‘Well, they did it again.’ It’s something else.”
The Braves needed a late rally because, stop us if you’ve heard this before, they got less than five innings out of their starting pitcher. Touki Toussaint made it through just three innings. Snitker tried to get a fourth inning out of the right-hander – and that experiment lasted just one batter. Toussaint walked the leadoff batter for his sixth base on balls and was quickly pulled for Grant Dayton. with the Braves trailing 4-2. The Braves got three solid innings of relief from Huascar Ynoa, who allowed just two hits and struck out four.
Toussaint allowed two hits – both second-inning home runs – and four earned runs before exiting. He struck out four, throwing 73 pitches, only 34 for strikes. The six walks and a hit batter compounded the trouble. The damage would have been more had Austin Riley not snagged a line drive and tag third base for a double play with the bases loaded that ended the Nationals’ third inning.
“Again, there are some bright spots,” Snitker said of Toussaint. “He’s going to have to figure it out. He’s going to have to figure out how to get the ball in the strike zone. It’s way too many pitches. His stuff is too good to not be successful here.”
Braves relievers (105.1) have pitched more innings than Braves starters (99.2) this season. Braves starters have pitched three innings or fewer in seven of the team’s first 24 games. Yeah, that’s not good.
The Nationals opened the scoring with three second-inning runs. Luis Garcia hit a two-run homer after a walk to Kurt Suzuki and Eric Thames hit a solo shot. Both came on first-pitch fastballs from Toussaint.
The Braves answered with two runs in the bottom of the second on an RBI double by Markakis and a two-out single by Riley.
The Nationals added a run in the third after Toussaint loaded the bases with a hit batter and two walks. He walked in a run before Riley’s defensive gem, a play Snitker called the biggest of the game.
After Toussaint left in the fourth, the Nationals loaded the bases but did not score when Juan Soto flied out to the warning track for the final out, just missing a grand slam. Asdrubal Cabrera added a fifth-inning home run and Soto would get one over the wall with a solo shot in the ninth inning off Will Smith that traveled 445 feet and gave the Nationals the 6-3 lead.
“Our mind set is there is 27 outs and to play each and every one on offense and defense,” said Swanson, who recalls his last walk-off home run as an 8-year old. “I feel like we have done a really good job of continually putting together at-bats to be able to put ourselves in position to be successful like that.”
Braves pitcher Touki Toussaint throws to shortstop Dansby Swanson to pick off Nationals' Juan Soto as he attempts to steal second base during the first inning Monday, Aug.17, 2020 in Atlanta.
Credit: Curtis Compton
Credit: Curtis Compton
Notes from Monday’s game:
⋅ Markakis doubled twice. He now has 505 career doubles. He moved past Robbie Alomar and Tony Perez into 59th place on the baseball’s all-time doubles list. He now trails Babe Ruth by one for 58th place.
“Nick is Nick, just as solid as he can be,” Snitker said. “Every at-bat, it’s unbelievable how he grinds through every at-bat. He never throws an at-bat away. I’ve never seen that man throw an at-bat away.”
⋅ Freddie Freeman batted second again and went 2-for-4.
⋅ Garcia became the first player born in the 2000s to hit a home run when the Nationals’ 20-year-old second baseman opened the scoring.
⋅ The Braves opened an eight-game homestand with their first game against the Nationals this season. They won’t see the defending World Series champions again until September.