Needing to pick up some of the slack with Freddie Freeman sidelined for at least the next two months, Nick Markakis delivered a go-ahead single and Kurt Suzuki homered to further enrich the three-run eighth inning the Braves constructed during Friday night’s 7-4 win over the Nationals at SunTrust Park.
Brandon Phillips drew a walk off Enny Romero and then notched his second stolen base of the game before scoring on Markakis’ RBI single. Suzuki extended Romero’s woes when he drilled a two-run homer into the left-field seats, his third home run of the season and second in as many days.
“I think we should really realize [Markakis] had that professional at-bat, lefty on lefty with a guy throwing 98 [mph],” Suzuki said. “That set everything up. I got to see a lot of pitches from the side. He put us on top, and it was just nice to get that little extra insurance.”
Dansby Swanson gave the Braves an early lead with a two-run homer in the second inning, but the rookie shortstop also committed one of the two defensive miscues that allowed the Nationals to tally three runs in the third inning. After Daniel Murphy answered Matt Kemp’s game-tying homer in the third with a solo shot in the fourth, Atlanta tied the game with Suzuki’s one-out double in the fifth.
“I think that our mentality, especially missing the big guy [Freeman], is going to be this idea of bending but not breaking,” Braves starter R.A. Dickey said. “Tonight against a really good ball club, and Washington is the best for a reason, you knew it was going to be a dogfight from pitch one.”
While Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez needed 116 pitches to complete 5 2/3 innings, Atlanta knuckleballer Dickey tallied 116 pitches over 5 1/3 innings. The Braves won for the sixth time in their past eight games with the help of a bullpen that did not allow a hit.
Meanwhile, the Nationals’ struggling bullpen has been overworked lately as they dropped their third consecutive game, matching a season high. With few options available in the bullpen, they turned to Romero, even though he has struggled lately. Romero declined to speak to the media after the game.
“It’s a bad series of events,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. “You can’t bring it back, because there’s not a whole lot you can do right now. We’re trying just about everything you can do. We just have to come out and play better tomorrow.”
Swanson recorded a multi-hit game for the third time in the past four days and reached in each of his four plate appearances as his batting average moved above .200 for the first time this season. But he also made some key defensive contributions. He went into the hole to rob Jayson Werth of a leadoff single in the fifth and aided closer Jim Johnson’s perfect ninth with a nifty play on Adam Lind’s leadoff grounder.
Taylor notched a one-out double in the third inning and scored from second base when Swanson whiffed on the barehanded play he had to try in an attempt to prevent the speedy Trea Turner from reaching on an infield single. Freeman’s absence with a fractured wrist was felt two batters later when Bryce Harper’s two-out grounder eluded Jace Peterson, who had never played first base before Wednesday. Peterson’s miscue allowed a pair of unearned runs to score against Dickey.
Bartolo Colon will be aiming to win a second straight start when Atlanta and Washington resume this series Saturday at 3:10 p.m. CT. Colon won in Toronto on Monday, but he has a 8.44 ERA over his past five starts.