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Braves sweep Nats in doubleheader for first wins of 2021 season

Atlanta Braves starter Huascar Ynoa pitches in the first inning of the second game of a doubleheader against the Washington Nationals on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI
Atlanta Braves starter Huascar Ynoa pitches in the first inning of the second game of a doubleheader against the Washington Nationals on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

April 8 (UPI) -- The Atlanta Braves picked up their first two wins of the season with a doubleheader sweep of the Washington Nationals on Wednesday.

Atlanta outlasted Washington 7-6 in the first of two, seven-inning games at Nationals Park. Huascar Ynoa pitched a gem in the second game and Pablo Sandoval swatted a pinch-hit homer to lead the Braves to a 2-0 win in the nightcap.

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"It was one of those moments when you get goosebumps when you hit the ball," Sandoval told reporters. "You've just got to continue working to do whatever you can to get those opportunities."

The three-game series was the Nationals' first of the season due to the team's early issues with COVID-19, which postponed their campaign-opening series against the New York Mets. The Nats beat the Braves 6-5 in the first game of the series Tuesday.

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Washington carried the momentum from the first game into the first inning on Wednesday, taking the lead with four runs in the bottom half of the frame. Veteran shortstop Trea Turner hit a two-run homer and Starlin Castro and Andrew Stevenson drove in runs to give Washington a 4-1 lead.

The Braves responded with a five-run second inning and never again surrendered the lead. Pitcher Max Fried, Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies and Travis d'Arnaud all drove in runs in the second frame.

Atlanta scored its seventh run on a wild pitch in the top of the seventh inning before Castro brought in the final run of the game with an RBI double in the bottom of the seventh.

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Fried allowed eight hits and five runs in two innings for Atlanta and Erick Fedde allowed six hits and six runs in 1 2/3 innings for the Nats and moved to 0-1 this season.

Acuna went 3 for 4 with two runs scored and an RBI for the Braves. Castro went 3 for 4 with three RBIs for the Nationals. Turner and Ryan Zimmerman collected two hits apiece in the loss.

Ynoa allowed just two hits over five shutout innings in the second matchup, which was a pitcher's duel with Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg. The Nationals pitcher allowed just one hit and had eight strikeouts in six shutout innings to take a no-decision.

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The Braves and Nationals were scoreless through six innings in the series finale.

Nationals relief pitcher Tanner Rainey then took over for Strasburg in the bottom of the seventh inning. He forced fly outs from Marcell Ozuna and Austin Riley and was on track for a quick inning. Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson then singled to left field in the third at-bat of the inning. Veteran slugger Pablo Sandoval then stepped up to the plate as a pinch hitter.

Sandoval fell behind 1-2, but then took two balls to work a full count. Rainey fired in a 95.8-mph fastball for his final pitch of the exchange and Sandoval smashed it to center field for a go-ahead, 413-foot home run. The blast traveled 105 mph and left the field in 5.6 seconds, according to Statcast.

Braves relief pitcher Sean Newcomb struck out the final three hitters of the game to clinch the victory and earn his first save.

The Nationals (1-2) next battle the Los Angeles Dodgers at 1:10 p.m. PDT Friday in Los Angeles, and Atlanta (2-4) hosts the Philadelphia Phillies at 7:20 p.m. EDT Friday at Truist Park.

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