Late rally costs Nats shot at a sweep
It was a tale of two line drives.
One went the way of the Nationals late in the second game Tuesday night, the other did not.
And that meant a split of a day-night doubleheader at Nationals Park for the Nationals, who could have used a sweep to get back into the National League East race.
The Braves scored two runs in the top of the ninth off reliever Kelvin Herrera and beat the Nationals 3-1. Washington won the first game Tuesday 8-3 as Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman hit homers.
“We couldn’t get anything going (on offense),” manager Dave Martinez said of the second game.
Herrera had to leave the game with a shoulder injury, Martinez said.
Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis led off the ninth with singles for the Braves in the nightcap.
Kurt Suzuki, the former Washington catcher, then smashed a line drive that Washington third baseman Anthony Rendon caught to prevent a run.
The Nationals dodged a bullet, but Ender Inciarte followed with a triple down the first-base line and into right field that Bryce Harper was slow to field, allowing two runs to score for the Braves.
“He kind of misplayed the ball. The ball was hit perfectly off the end of the bat,” Martinez said.
Washington threatened in the last of the ninth as Ryan Zimmerman led off with his third hit of the game, a double.
Daniel Murphy flew out then Michael A. Taylor was hit by a pitch, putting the possible winning run at the plate in Washington catcher Matt Wieters.
But the switch-hitter, batting right against Atlanta closer A.J. Minter, smashed a liner that Braves third baseman Johan Camargo caught and threw to second base to double up Zimmerman for the last out.
“They know me so well. They really understand what I am trying to do,” Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer, who allowed one run in seven innings, said of the Braves. “It just happened they won. I am proud of (our) effort on a hot day. No one is hanging their head. We played hard today. Everybody laid it on the line. It just didn’t work out.”
Rookie Juan Soto hit his 14th homer, putting him sixth on the all-time list ahead of Mickey Mantle for homers by a rookie. But that was the only run the Nationals scored in the first inning.
“We just got to come back tomorrow,” Martinez said.
The Nationals fell to 58-55 and remain 5.5 games back of the first-place Phillies, who played Tuesday night in Arizona.
Washington hosts the Braves on Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon in the second half of the four-game series.