Johan Camargo’s pinch-hit homer gives Braves series win in D.C.

Johan Camargo celebrates with Braves teammate Ozzie Albies (left) after hitting a two-run home run in the 10th inning against the Washington Nationals June 23, 2019, at Nationals Park in Washington, DC.
Johan Camargo celebrates with Braves teammate Ozzie Albies (left) after hitting a two-run home run in the 10th inning against the Washington Nationals June 23, 2019, at Nationals Park in Washington, DC.

Credit: Scott Taetsch

Credit: Scott Taetsch

The Braves could've veered off the rails when their starter exited after two innings Sunday. Instead, they left the nation's capital with yet another series win.

Staying afloat thanks to solo homers from Josh Donaldson and Ronald Acuna — and masterful pitching by long-reliever Josh Tomlin — Johan Camargo won it for the Braves with a two-run shot in the 10th. His blast to right pushed them past the Nationals 4-3 to take two of three this weekend.

“He’s staying ready,” manager Brian Snitker said of Camargo. “He’s a good weapon to have off the bench. The kid’s had a great attitude. He understands his role. We came into it thinking we’d get him all these at-bats, (but) we’re not constructed that way. We’re a traditional team that has a lineup.

“He’s done a great job. Gives you a ton of versatility. I love having him on the bench because it allows you to do other things knowing he’s there. ... It’s a tough role for a young guy, but he’s embraced it and done a great job helping the club.”

The Braves led most of the day until the Nationals plated two in the seventh, refreshing the game. There wouldn’t be any more scoring until the 10th.

Ozzie Albies drew a one-out walk from Tanner Rainey before Camargo pinch-hit. Four pitches later, he scooped a low 97-mph fastball for his fourth homer of the year and second extra-base hit in as many days.

“When I hit it, I had a feeling I got it pretty good,” Camargo said via team interpreter Franco Garcia. “I saw it elevating. I wasn’t sure I got all of it, but I knew it was going to at least go over or hit the wall.”

Camargo entered with only four pinch-hits in 23 at-bats this season. A crucial part of last year’s division champion, Camargo admits it’s taken some time to adjust to his utility role after manning third on a daily basis in 2018.

The Braves already boast a strong bench led by Charlie Culberson and unsung producer Matt Joyce. Camargo rounding into shape would make it that much more potent.

“We feel confident,” Camargo said. “We know we have quality players on the bench. For us, it’s just about staying positive, continuing to work and helping the team however we can.”

As such, the Braves’ hard-to-fathom late-inning offense added another notch to its belt. Of the Braves’ 118 homers, 48 have come in the seventh or later (41 percent).

Mike Soroka had sailed through two frames, but the 21-year-old was forced out after getting hit in the right forearm by an Austin Voth pitch. Soroka, who entered with a 2.07 ERA, slammed his bat in frustration before taking his base.

The Canadian righty was removed for the bottom of the third. The Braves announced it as a precautionary measure — understandably, they played it safer with Soroka, who’s had shoulder issues in the past and is logging the largest workload of his career.

X-rays came back negative and Soroka is expected to make his next start Friday in Chicago. His forearm was wrapped following the game and he said it was a bruise.

Enter Tomlin, who’s proved an excellent bargain-bin grab for the Braves despite his proneness for the long ball. After allowing a lead-off knock, the veteran retired the next 12 Nationals over four innings.

“It was awesome,” Snitker said. “That was about as good as you can do. Huge. All the strikes. The guy has just been Johnny-on-the-spot for us, that’s for sure.”

The Braves lifted Tomlin after 43 pitches, an easy call since it was his longest outing since May and the top of the lineup was approaching. When Tomlin exited, Washington found its offense.

Juan Soto’s solo home run off Grant Dayton in the seventh gave the Nationals life. A pair of hits off Jacob Webb reset the game entering the eighth.

The Braves had only four hits through seven frames, yet two left the yard. Donaldson rocketed a low slider over the center-field wall for the game’s first run in the fourth inning. Acuna, who’s scuffled lately, made the most of a fastball down the middle for a 2-0 lead in the sixth.

It was another gut-check victory for the Braves, who pulled off a four-run rally Saturday night. They could’ve been content coasting through this game after Soroka’s exit. It even could’ve spiraled downhill after the Nationals tied it.

Instead, the Braves won their fifth consecutive series and gained a game on their rivals after these three meetings. Paired with the Phillies inexplicably getting swept at home by the Marlins, the Braves lead the National League East by 6-1/2 games.

Division standings

 

“It takes a lot out of you to win a game like this,” Snitker said. “It takes a lot out of you and it’s good to win them. These guys play on emotion. They’re in it every game, that quiet confidence they have, intensity, they expect to win.”

The team’s longest remaining road trip continues in two of the country’s largest markets, Chicago and New York. Next up, the Braves will see the Cubs four times, starting Monday when Julio Teheran (5-5, 3.40) faces Jon Lester (6-5, 4.13).

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