Mike Foltynewicz’s outing was an eight-run mess Saturday. The Braves’ bats seemingly wouldn’t overcome their pitching unraveling. The Nationals had the momentum, motivation and lead. The Braves entered the seventh down 8-4, staring into the possibility of being swept in the series Sunday.
They came out of the next few innings with a 13-9 win, which felt improbable – as it often does – given the circumstances at hand. The win extended the Braves’ National League East lead to a season-high 5-1/2 games. And of the many, many explosions the offense has ignited recently, this one might be most impressive.
“It’s up there,” first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “Me and (catcher Brian McCann) were just saying ‘What a win.’ It just doesn’t matter what inning it is, what score it is. We’re relentless. We’ve proved that over and over again.”
Washington began the seventh up four. The Nationals then summoned Trevor Rosenthal, who made Foltynewicz’s performance look like a Madison Bumgarner postseason showcase. The erratic righty was all over the place and walked three consecutive hitters before being pulled.
Tanner Rainey replaced Rosenthal and promptly walked Dansby Swanson, pulling the Braves within 8-5. That at-bat, in which Swanson fell behind 0-2 before taking four pitches in the dirt, was perhaps the best of the night, according to manager Brian Snitker.
“Dansby laying off those two sliders with two strikes, that was a great at-bat to walk there,” he said. “Those are tough pitches to lay off of when you’re down in the count like that. He’s been great all year, but those are tough to lay off of. That loaded the bases to bring up Freddie (Freeman). That was a huge at-bat.”
Freeman pounded a game-tying three-run double on the next pitch. The much-maligned Nationals bullpen realized its feared fate. The Braves offense, contained by Thursday’s off-day and Friday’s pitching, got its due.
“Early in the game, we got down four and I was just sitting there thinking to myself, ‘I feel like we have a chance here,’ ” Snitker said. “There’s way too much game left. It was a string of really good at-bats again.”
A.J. Minter gave the Nationals a run back in the bottom of the inning via a wild pitch. The Braves plated four again in the eighth – making that eight runs in two innings. Their ability to blow up in one-or-two-inning stretches is why they’ve scored 12 or more runs five times this month.
Joe Ross, who was a candidate to start Sunday, pitched the eighth for Washington. Ozzie Albies and Tyler Flowers greeted him with singles. Pinch-hitter Johan Camargo doubled to even the score again. Ronald Acuna was retired on a harmless grounder.
Then came Swanson, whose offensive awakening has bailed the Braves out plenty in the first 76 games. He blasted a three-run homer to left-center, bringing the significant number of visiting Braves fans to their feet and awarding the team its first win over the Nationals this season.
“The more you do it, that’s when you start saying ‘Wow. We keep doing this over and over again.’ And as much as I’d like to win with not-heart-racing moments, it’s pretty spectacular what this team is doing,” Freeman said. “It’s really hard to put into perspective what we’re doing. I don’t know if anyone’s been doing this like we have. Hopefully we’re getting this all out and we’ll win games easier, but it’s just the feeling we have in this clubhouse that no matter what it is, we’re going to keep coming.”
In the midst of the madness, Freeman tied a franchise record with an RBI for the 10th consecutive game. He’s registered 18 RBIs during this stretch and has 29 in June. His five RBIs equaled a career-high.
As usual, Freeman’s tear has been a quiet one on the national scale. On the verge of another All-Star appearance, this might become Freeman’s best offensive campaign yet.
“He’s so good,” Swanson said. “You can just write that, quote that: He’s so good. Because there’s nothing really else there is to say about it. He hits to all parts of the field, lefty-righty, it doesn’t matter who’s pitching. It’s amazing. It’s incredible. I’m just glad he’s on our team.”
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