Braves find relief vs. Nationals’ bullpen in 7-4 win
ATLANTA -- After leaving 11 runners on base and having another thrown out at the plate, the Atlanta Braves finally got to the shaky Washington Nationals’ bullpen on Friday night.
Nick Markakis broke an eighth-inning tie with an RBI single and Kurt Suzuki followed with a two-run homer as the Braves took advantage of rookie reliever Enny Romero and defeated the Nationals 7-4.
“The bullpen is getting roughed up. Right now we’re kind of limping,” Washington manager Dusty Baker said. “We need some help period. But who is going to give you some help.”
Markakis’ tiebreaking hit followed a walk and stolen base by Brandon Phillips against Romero (2-2) before Suzuki, who had an RBI double earlier, hit his third homer.
“That was kind of icing on the cake. All the emotions were running, for me personally, anyway,” said Suzuki, who had his wife and child in town for a visit. “You’ve got the division rival, the team that is leading the division, coming to town for a big series. It was a pretty cool moment.”
The victory was just the fifth for the Braves (17-22) in their past 23 games with the Nationals (25-16), who have lost six of their last seven games on the road.
Atlanta won six of its past eight games, but will be without slugger Freddie Freeman for at least 10 weeks because of a broken wrist suffered two games ago.
Matt Kemp and Dansby Swanson joined Suzuki in homering for the Braves, while Daniel Murphy went deep for the Nationals.
Kemp was 3-for-4 and rookie shortstop Swanson 2-for-2 with two walks.
“He’s been really working,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said of Swanson. “His game has come a long way since the beginning of the year, his total game.”
Arodys Vizcaino (2-1) got credit for the victory with a perfect eighth inning and Jim Johnson pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his seventh save.
Nationals center fielder Michael A. Taylor threw out Swanson at the plate in the sixth inning to keep the game tied and reliever Matt Grace got the final out of the inning with two Braves in scoring position.
Washington starter Gio Gonzalez gave up nine hits, including homers by Kemp and Swanson, and four runs in 5 2/3 innings, walking three and striking out five. The left-hander threw 116 pitches -- one less than Braves starter R.A. Dickey.
“I was hoping he’d go deeper in the game,” Baker said of Gonzalez. “That is what happens when you throw a lot of pitches.”
Dickey was charged with four runs (two unearned) in 5 1/3 innings. The veteran knuckleball pitcher allowed eight hits, walked three and struck out five, the homer by Murphy the eighth he has given up in five home starts.
Swanson hit his fourth homer, a two-run shot, in the second inning and Kemp connected with the bases empty in the third off Gonzalez for his seventh.
Murphy’s eighth homer leading off the fourth against Dickey gave Washington a 4-3 lead.
The Nationals scored three times an inning earlier, the last two runs unearned thanks to an error by fill-in Braves first baseman Jace Peterson.
The Braves, though, tied it back up in the fifth on a RBI double by Suzuki.
Then came the winning rally in the eighth as left-handed reliever Romero couldn’t get the job done.
“The key was walking Brandon Phillips,” Baker said. “Markakis hits lefties well. (Romero) couldn’t get his secondary pitches over and they could sit on the fastball.”
NOTES: Nationals RHP Max Scherzer (4-2, 2.80 ERA) goes for his sixth straight victory over the Braves in the middle game of the series on Saturday. He allowed just two hits over seven scoreless innings in a victory at Atlanta on April 18. ... RHP Bartolo Colon (2-4, 6.80 ERA) will be the starter for the Braves after snapping a three-game losing streak with a victory at Toronto on Monday. ... Veteran 1B James Loney, signed to a minor league contract as a possible eventual fill-in for sidelined 1B Freddie Freeman (fractured left wrist), played his first game with Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday, going 1-for-4. ... The Braves also promoted 1B/3B Carlos Franco to Gwinnett after he homered in three straight games for Double-A Mississippi to take over the Southern League lead with 11.