Dallas Keuchel scratched his way through 5 ⅓ innings, and lacked the command that he needs without elite velocity. Four was the magic number for him tonight, as he allowed four runs (two of which scored after he had already departed), walked four, and struck out four.
The usually unflappable Keuchel was visibly frustrated by home plate umpire Adam Hamari’s mobile strike zone, as he wasn’t calling the corners Keuchel is used to painting. The inconsistency wasn’t just limited to Keuchel, though, as Nationals starter Patrick Corbin also had some questions about the pliability of the zone.
Speaking of Corbin, he befuddled the Braves offense, striking out eight and at one point striking out four consecutive Braves. He made it through six innings, allowing two runs, and inducing a preposterous 22 swinging strikes – 18 of which came on his slider.
The first inning was a comedy of errors. Keuchel threw 28 pitches and allowed the Nationals to manufacture a run using a hit by pitch, a passed ball from Tyler Flowers (his fourth in seven games, an event which is occurring with growing frequency), and an RBI single from Juan Soto to take a 1-0 lead. He was lucky to have escaped only allowing one run, as the bases were left loaded. They tacked on another in the second inning after a walk to Yan Gomes (the first of four!) and a Trea Turner RBI double.
The Nationals gifted a run back to the Braves in the fourth, after an Adam Duvall infield hit drew an errant throw from Anthony Rendon. Freddie Freeman, who had broken up Corbin’s no hitter two batters prior, scored on the play. Austin Riley struck out to end the inning, which surprised no one.
The Braves tied it up in the sixth inning, stringing together a Freeman single, an infield hit for Josh Donaldson – the 1000th of his career – and a sac fly RBI from Duvall that missed being a home run by about two feet.
Keuchel wasn’t able to make it out of the sixth, and things got messy after he turned things over to Chad Sobotka. After striking Trea Turner, a walk to Adam Eaton loaded the bases for Anthony Rendon, who hit a grand slam into the seats and earned himself a curtain call. With that, it was 6-2.
A ninth inning home run from Charlie Culberson brought the Braves to within 6-3, but the threat ended there.
There has been a fair amount of chatter recently about whether the Braves’ biggest need moving forward is in the rotation or in the bullpen, and tonight’s game emphasized the need to upgrade both. Keuchel was able to survive somewhat, but this was a far cry from his 12-strikeout performance last Tuesday against the Royals. Chad Sobotka was a mess. Jeremy Walker missed glove side on a decent amount of his pitches, and walked three batters in his inning of work. Jerry Blevins is a certified member of AARP. This team is promising, and still has the chance to make a lot of noise, but there is a pressing need to make upgrades. Luckily, with the trade deadline on Wednesday, there is still time to do so.
These two teams will meet again tomorrow night at 7:05pm ET.