The most productive day of what had thus far been a frustration-filled season concluded with Ynoa producing the best start of the year and Sean Newcomb looking like a potential closer. In between, Sandoval drilled a two-out, two-run homer that gave the Braves a 2-0 win over the Nationals in the second game of a doubleheader on Wednesday afternoon at Nationals Park.
All games in doubleheaders will once again be scheduled for seven innings this year.
“This was kind of an agonizing week,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “We had only played four games, but it felt like we had two weeks under our belt. This is a really good way to end the road trip.”
After squandering the four home runs they hit off Max Scherzer in Tuesday’s loss, the Braves claimed a 7-6 win in Wednesday’s first game, despite getting just two innings from Max Fried. The ace’s early exit taxed a bullpen that was prepared to be stressed in the nightcap.
But Ynoa erased any lingering concerns as he notched five strikeouts and allowed just two hits over a career-high five scoreless innings. The 22-year-old right-hander made five starts last year, but he had never pitched more than four innings. This start marked just the second time he has ever completed more than three innings.
Ynoa’s four-seam fastball touched 99 mph and averaged 96 mph in the outing. His slider accounted for 50 percent of his 68 pitches, and he got a whiff on 12 of the 23 swings the pitch induced.
“I don’t know that he touched 98 in all that he did during Spring Training,” Snitker said. “The slider was really, really good. That [pitch] was a big reason he got the start. But yeah, that was pretty darn good there.”
Ynoa’s effort was rewarded when Dansby Swanson’s two-out single extended the seventh. Snitker responded by replacing rookie catcher Alex Jackson with Sandoval, who had hit a game-tying, two-run, pinch-hit homer during the 10-inning Opening Day loss to the Phillies.
Sandoval worked the count full and then deposited Tanner Rainey’s fastball over the center-field fence. The two-run shot makes the 34-year-old veteran the first player in Braves history to account for all of his team’s runs via a pinch-hit homer twice in one season.
Less than two weeks ago, there was doubt about whether Sandoval would earn an Opening Day spot as a non-roster invitee. But so far, the 2012 World Series MVP is proving he can still be quite valuable.
“It was one of those moments when you get goosebumps when you hit the ball,” Sandoval said. “You’ve just got to continue working to do whatever you can to get those opportunities.”