Freeman sits; Smyly, Braves get 1st sweep of Nats since 2014
WASHINGTON (AP) — When Drew Smyly’s previous start ended the way so many had recently — multiple homers, a loss for his Atlanta Braves — the left-hander looked at the calendar and took heart from realizing it was the last day of April.
He was excited to see what his first start of May would bring. Rather different, turns out: No balls left the park. No earned runs at all. And, finally, a win — his first since September 2019.
Smyly pitched into the seventh inning, Ehire Adrianza made the most of a rare start on a day off for slumping NL MVP Freddie Freeman, and Atlanta edged Washington 3-2 for the Braves’ first sweep of the Nationals since 2014.
“It’s a new month. Every game’s a new game. Every day’s a day to get better,” said Smyly (1-2), who allowed four hits and an unearned run.
“It feels pretty good,” he said, “just to be able to celebrate with your teammates and help them win a ballgame.”
Atlanta outscored its NL East rival 14-6 over the three games.
Smyly allowed at least one home run in each of his past five starts — and a total of eight long balls over his last three.
“The way he went about the whole thing was a lot sharper,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.
That was built on a better fastball command, thanks to extra emphasis during between-start bullpen sessions.
“He made pitches when he needed to. Sometimes that’s the name of the game,” Washington’s Josh Harrison said. “He got out of a few jams if he got in them, and the defense made a few plays for him, as well.”
In a contest streamed on YouTube instead of aired on TV, Snitker left Freeman out of the lineup after a 1-for-24 stretch. Austin Riley shifted from third base to first, and Adrianza played third, where he robbed Trea Turner of a hit in the third inning.
In the next half-inning, Adrianza’s looper to center field capped a three-run outburst off Jon Lester (0-1).
Washington pulled within 3-1 when a run scored on a fielding error by Ronald Acuña Jr. It was 3-2 after Yan Gomes’ RBI single in the eighth. That’s when Grant Dayton entered with two runners on and struck out Kyle Schwarber and Victor Robles, before Will Smith worked around Ryan Zimmerman’s pinch-hit leadoff double in the ninth for his seventh save in seven chances.
The Nationals were not so sure about plate umpire Nick Mahrley’s called third strike on Robles ending the eighth.
“Ball might have been down,” Schwarber said. “Could have been a momentum-changer there.”
Washington manager Dave Martinez’s take?
“He’s a young umpire. He got caught in the moment,” Martinez said. “I looked at it. It was a bad pitch.”
Martinez set a Nationals record by managing his 411th game with them, one more than Manny Acta in 2007-09. Martinez found out about the milestone when Turner greeted him with a hug. “I said, ‘What was that for?’ He said, ‘You’re the longest-tenured manager in the history of the Nationals.’ So I said, ‘Oh, thanks.’ Then I said: ‘You know what? Keep playing the way you’re playing so I can be here a whole lot longer,’” Martinez recounted.
Braves: Signed C Tyler Flowers to a minor league deal.
Nationals: INF Hernán Pérez opted to become a free agent rather than accept an assignment to Triple-A Rochester.
Braves: OF Ender Inciarte (IL, left hamstring) was scheduled to begin an injury rehabilitation assignment at Triple-A Gwinnett.
Nationals: 2019 World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg (IL, right shoulder) threw 35 pitches over two innings in a simulated game Thursday. He’s expected to appear in another Monday or Tuesday. ... RHP Wander Suero (IL, side muscle) threw 22 pitches in Thursday’s simulated game and could head to Triple-A Rochester soon for a rehabilitation outing.
Braves: Begin a six-game homestand Friday by facing the NL East-leading Philadelphia Phillies. Atlanta will send RHP Charlie Morton (2-1, 5.08 ERA) to the mound against RHP Zach Eflin (1-1, 3.49).
Nationals: Open a three-game series at the New York Yankees on Friday, with LHP Patrick Corbin (1-3, 8.10) facing RHP Jameson Taillon (1-2, 5.24). It’ll be the second career start at Yankee Stadium for Corbin; the other came in 2013.
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