Nationals rally for 6 runs in 8th to beat Braves
ATLANTA (AP) — Manager Dusty Baker was hardly surprised that the heart of the Nationals’ order took so many pitches in the eighth inning.
“It’s easy to be patient when they’re not near the strike zone,” he said. “We capitalized on it. You’re going to get hits after that.”
Braves closer Arodys Vizcaino issued three bases-loaded walks in the six-run eighth, Gio Gonzalez pitched seven strong innings and Washington beat Atlanta 7-3 on Wednesday night.
Gonzalez (15-7) allowed two runs, three hits and one walk to enjoy some rare good luck in the series. The left-hander, who struck out eight, began the night 4-11 with a 5.27 ERA in 20 career starts against the Braves.
He was coming off an 8-0 loss to Atlanta in his most recent start last week.
“This time we were attacking the strike zone,” Gonzalez said. “We were being more aggressive with the fastball in certain counts and using the offspeeds and curveballs when I needed it.”
The NL East champion Nationals rallied from a 2-1 deficit for their third straight win.
Pinch-hitter Wilmer Difo singled, Trea Turner doubled and Jayson Werth walked in the eighth against Jose Ramirez (2-3). Braves manager Brian Snitker brought in Vizcaino, and the move quickly backfired.
Daniel Murphy, Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon walked, and Vizcaino left without a retiring a batter. Rex Brothers then gave up Adam Lind’s two-run single and Michael Taylor’s RBI single to make it 7-2.
“It fell apart,” Snitker said. “It wasn’t like they were just missing, either. (The pitches) were shanked, yanked and everything else.”
Ramirez allowed three runs, two hits and one walk with one strikeout in 1/3 of an inning.
Braves starter Lucas Sims pitched five innings, giving up one run, three hits and two walks. The rookie struck out six.
Turner hit Sims’ first pitch of the game over the left-field wall, his 10th homer this season and sixth of his career to begin a game.
Freddie Freeman’s 28th homer made it 1-1 in the bottom of the first. Kurt Suzuki hit his 16th homer, a career high, to put Atlanta up 2-1 in the fifth. Jace Peterson homered off Matt Albers in the eighth.
NO FREE PASSES
Braves LHP A.J. Minter faced the minimum in the sixth and has not allowed a walk in his first career 11 games. The team said his 1 1/3 perfect innings Sunday made him the organization’s first pitcher “since at least 1913” not to allow a walk in his first 10 games. Minter has no record with a 2.45 ERA in 11 games and has struck out eight of the last 11 batters he’s faced.
Nationals: RF Bryce Harper, sidelined since Aug. 12 with a hyperextended left knee, took live batting practice and will rest Thursday. The 2015 NL MVP played in a simulated game Tuesday. “He’s on a fast course to try to come back as soon as possible, but we don’t want to rush him too much and hurt him,” Baker said. Harper might play in some instructional games next week in West Palm Beach, Fla., before he rejoins the lineup.
Braves: CF Ender Inciarte was out of the lineup because of a bruised left thumb. X-rays were negative after he left Tuesday’s game early. Snitker said Inciarte “couldn’t torque his bat on fastballs” and needed to rest. Inciarte is 10 hits shy of having 200 for the first time in his career.
Nationals: RHP Tanner Roark (13-9, 4.43 ERA) will try to win his third straight start. Roark is 5-2 with a 3.24 ERA in his last eight starts overall. He’s made 12 career starts and six relief appearances against the Braves, going 6-2 with a 2.80 ERA.
Braves: RHP R.A. Dickey (9-10, 4.41 ERA) is 0-2 with a 10.05 ERA in three starts this month. In 20 career starts and two relief outings against Washington, the 42-year-old knuckleballer is 4-9 with a 4.17 ERA.
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