Ozzie finds the right match to fend off Nats

September 8th, 2021

ATLANTA -- Exactly one week after being carried off the field at Dodger Stadium, extended his recent homer barrage in timely fashion. His go-ahead two-run shot gave the Braves an 8-5 win over the Nationals at Truist Park on Tuesday night.

Albies added to his National League-leading extra-base hit total and helped the Braves strengthen their division lead with the game-winning homer he hit off soft-tossing reliever Ryne Harper. The All-Star second baseman has homered in each of the four games he has played since returning to Atlanta’s lineup. He missed just two games after fouling a pitch off his right knee during an Aug. 31 loss in Los Angeles.

“I'm kind of like running around with my fungo wanting to beat a couple of these guys on the knee,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said with a laugh. “He's feeling pretty good since he came back. He's been nails ever since he's been back.”

There was a reason for the Braves (73-64) to laugh and feel good as they opened this homestand with a win and increased their National League East lead to 2 1/2 games over the Phillies (71-67), who lost in Milwaukee Tuesday night. Atlanta will look to increase its advantage as it spends the next eight games playing the Nationals, Marlins and Rockies.

“It’s going to be a special series for us at home,” Albies said. “We’ve just got to go do what we do every day.”

It looked like the Braves might cruise toward a win in this series opener. Adam Duvall drilled his 32nd homer of the season -- a three-run shot in the first -- and Max Fried escaped multiple threats while allowing one run over six innings and lowering his post-All-Star break ERA to 1.97. But Tyler Matzek allowed as many runs (4) in the seventh as he had over his past 29 appearances combined.

But soon after Yadiel Hernandez drilled his game-tying three-run homer against Matzek’s elevated first-pitch fastball, Albies drilled his 27th homer of the season in unique fashion.

Before the switch-hitting Albies went to the plate with one on and the game tied in the bottom of the seventh, he asked Snitker if it'd be a problem to bat right-handed against the soft-tossing Harper, who uses his curveball 60 percent of the time and averages 86 mph with his fastball.

“I’m like ‘Heck no, if you feel a lot better,’” Snitker said.

Albies looked at three pitches out of the zone, took a fastball and then drilled a curveball over the left-field wall. He is now 3-for-9 with two homers in right vs. right matchups. That other homer was hit against Mets outfielder Albert Almora Jr. on June 30.

“I hit right-on-right before,” Albies said. “So, all I was telling myself was get a pitch in the zone and try to drive the runner in, so you can go ahead.”

Albies’ latest home run increased his NL-leading extra-base hit total to 67. He has gone 6-for-17 with four homers since fortunately avoiding a fractured kneecap last week. In the process, he has provided indication he might be streaking at the right time.

“You've come to expect it from Ozzie,” Fried said. “He's that kind of player. He gets as hot as anyone. That was a scary situation in LA when he fouled the ball off his knee. But he kind of used it to get a little breather and got his legs back under him. And you can see him really taking off.”