Sims Solid vs. Nats, but Bullpen Falters in Loss

The Nationals took advantage of a struggling Braves’ bullpen as they erupted for six runs in the eighth inning of a 7-3 victory on Wednesday at SunTrust Park. The Nationals are now within 3 1/2 games of the Dodgers for home-field advantage in the playoffs.

The Nationals patiently watched the Braves’ bullpen implode as they worked four straight walks in the eighth inning. Adam Lind and Michael A. Taylor capped the frame with back-to-back RBI singles to secure starter Gio Gonzalez’s 15th win of the season. Gonzalez allowed two runs over seven innings of work, striking out eight batters.
The Braves’ bullpen came into Wednesday’s game with the third-worst ERA in the National League. Relievers Jose Ramirez and Arodys Vizcaino took the brunt of the eighth-inning damage by walking in three consecutive runs, including two four-pitch, bases-loaded walks. At one point, Braves relievers threw three of 22 pitches as strikes.
The bullpen collapse dampened another solid start from rookie pitcher Lucas Sims. After giving up a leadoff home run to Nationals shortstop Trea Turner, Sims settled in and sat down 14 of his last 18 batters faced.
The Braves’ rookie was aided by a pair of home runs from Freddie Freeman and Kurt Suzuki. Freeman countered Turner’s solo shot with a 439-foot blast off Gonzalez in the first inning. Later, Suzuki gave the Braves the lead with his career-high 16th home run.
Jace Peterson brought the Braves closer by hitting his second home run of the season in the eighth, but it proved to be too little, too late as the Nationals’ bullpen sealed the series victory with a scoreless ninth inning.
The Nationals got on the board early when Turner blasted his 10th home run on the first pitch of the game. It was his fourth leadoff home run of the season. According to Statcastâ„¢, the home run went 368 feet and had an exit velocity of 94.1 mph.
Sims ran into a bit of trouble in the fifth inning as he loaded the bases following a walk to Gonzalez. Holding a 2-1 lead, he battled Turner and eventually got him to ground out to Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson. Swanson would flip to second baseman Ozzie Albies as the Braves ended the threat to preserve and early lead.