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Biddle brilliant, but Braves' relief falters in 14th

June 2, 2018

ATLANTA -- Mike Foltynewicz provided the bullpen a much-needed day off with a complete-game gem on Friday night. But when pushed deep into extra innings on Saturday at SunTrust Park, Braves manager Brian Snitker had to call upon Socolovich, who would not have been with the Braves if not for

ATLANTA -- Mike Foltynewicz provided the bullpen a much-needed day off with a complete-game gem on Friday night. But when pushed deep into extra innings on Saturday at SunTrust Park, Braves manager Brian Snitker had to call upon Socolovich, who would not have been with the Braves if not for the domino effect created by the extended absence of Luiz Gohara. The outcome proved to be predictable, other than the fact that Max Scherzer sparked the two-run frame that gave the Nationals a 5-3, 14-inning victory.
"I got [Dan Winkler and Arodys Vizcaino] both hot yesterday," Snitker said. "Winkler had a tough inning the day before. We were going to stay away from both of them today, regardless of what happened today."
Snitker essentially took the "sometimes you have to lose the battle to win the war" approach that leads to great debate within the baseball world.
"I'm more of the mind to win the games that are there to be won," Braves starter Brandon McCarthy said. "You've got to try to win Game 6 before Game 7. But my job isn't to look at the larger part of the picture. They have been here and have a history with those guys and know how to space them. So I'm looking that more from an amateur side. [Snitker is] sitting there. He sees all the data and knows where guys are. I'm going to trust his opinion on that over me just guessing."

After Juan Soto hit a game-tying home run off Sam Freeman in the seventh, Atlanta's bullpen tossed six innings of one-hit ball from the eighth through the 13th, highlighted by eight strikeouts over three frames from left-hander Jesse Biddle.
Some of Snitker's decision beyond Winkler and Vizcaino starts with the Braves expecting Gohara to return from Brazil by Friday and possibly be activated for Saturday's game. When Socolovich was called up from Triple-A Gwinnett earlier this week because Matt Wisler had become unavailable after a four-inning stint, the thought was he'd be in the bullpen for a few days and be sent back to the Minors when Gohara returned.
But Gohara experienced travel issues that will prevent him from landing in Atlanta until Sunday. Wisler and Lucas Sims were unavailable because 10 days had not expired since they were optioned. Max Fried would have been an option to be recalled Saturday, but there was some uncertainty surrounding him because of a blister he dealt with earlier this week.
So after the Braves were unable to take a lead through 13 innings, Snitker handed the ball to Socolovich, who allowed a one-out single to Scherzer and two-out run-scoring triple to Wilmer Difo. Spencer Kieboom followed with a RBI single for the Nationals, who are now within a half-game of the National League East-leading Braves.
"You can't use the same three guys six days a week, because it's going to have to be a different three guys every two weeks if you try to do that," Braves catcher Tyler Flowers said. "There's a big picture in mind."
Nationals starter Giovany Gonzalez was perfect until Nick Markakis and Flowers began the fifth inning with consecutive singles. This set the stage for Johan Camargo, who extended his recent power surge by drilling a three-run homer over the center-field wall. It was his fifth homer of the season and third within a span of 15 at-bats going back to Tuesday's walk-off shot against the Mets.

McCarthy was solid over six quality frames outside of the second inning, during which Soto singled and scored on Michael A. Taylor's two-run homer. The veteran right-hander understood the decision to lift him after he had thrown just 84 pitches on a hot and humid day. His exit came after he survived a 10-pitch battle that resulted in Mark Reynolds striking out to end the top of the sixth.
"There might have been more in there, but humidity does something to me," said McCarthy, who struck out seven and allowed four hits without a walk. "It's a grind for me to get through it more than other guys."

Soto, the Nationals' 19-year-old version of Ronald Acuna Jr., later greeted Freeman with a homer to begin the seventh. The Braves' bullpen then held the Nats scoreless until Snitker handed the ball to Socolovich.
Stellar appearances: On the way to striking out eight of the 13 batters he faced over three scoreless innings, Biddle benefited from Markakis slamming into the right-field wall to catch Taylor's long drive to start the 12th inning. Biddle then struck out Trea Turner, Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon in the 13th to end his night.
But the Braves southpaw reliever almost didn't survive the bases-loaded threat he created when he intentionally walked Rendon and then walked Reynolds with two outs in the 11th. He survived when he got Soto to strike out on a 1-2 slider.
"I was frustrated," Biddle said. "I wasn't trying to walk guys. They intentionally walked Rendon to get to Reynolds. That wasn't really the plan. But using your frustration to execute pitches is probably the difference. So I was able to execute a couple pitches to the lefty that came up, and we were able to get out of it."

• McCarthy threw 32 curveballs -- his highest total since the start of 2015 -- and the Nationals were 2-for-9 in at-bats against him that concluded with the pitch. Those two hits: Soto's single and Taylor's homer in the second inning.
"It wasn't necessarily a set to throw a lot of them," McCarthy said. "But when things are going well and you're executing them, you just try to keep incorporating them through the lineup. There was one I'd like back, but otherwise, I thought we did a good job of mixing in more."
• Biddle became the first Braves reliever in 110 seasons to record at least eight strikeouts in three innings or less. Milwaukee's Josh Hader recorded eight strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings to get a save for the Brewers on April 30 in Cincinnati. Prior to that, the last reliever to record eight K's in three or fewer innings was the Yankees' Ron Davis on May 4, 1981.

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman made the defensive play of the day with a backhanded snare of Harper's sharp grounder that had a 103 mph exit velocity in the sixth inning. Freeman also extended his hitting streak to 15 games -- MLB's longest current streak -- with an opposite-field double later in the sixth. He quickly erased concerns about the left wrist discomfort he displayed after taking a swing in the first inning.
Freeman will attempt to extend his recent success when the Braves and Nationals conclude a four-game series at SunTrust Park on Sunday at 1:35 p.m. ET. The Atlanta slugger will attempt to extend his streak when he matches up against Jeremy Hellickson, a veteran right-hander who surrendered a homer against the Braves first baseman last year. Atlanta will start Anibal Sanchez, who has posted a 2.11 ERA over 23 career appearances (22 starts) against Washington.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for since 2001.