Braves look to handle Juan Soto, Nationals in series finale

MLB

The Atlanta Braves still haven’t found a way to consistently retire Washington’s Juan Soto, and the inability has kept them from padding their lead in the National League East.

Soto hit the decisive home run Wednesday and sparked the Nationals to a 4-2 win in the middle game of their three-game road series. The teams will meet again Thursday night.

Atlanta’s ballpark is a home away from home for Soto. In eight games there this season, he has three home runs, eight RBIs, one hit by pitch, nine walks and eight runs scored. He is batting .359 (14-for-39) against the Braves this season.

Soto was hit by a pitch by Will Smith in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s game, and Sean Nolin, Wednesday’s starting pitcher, was ejected for intentionally throwing at Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman in the first inning. Nolin threw his first pitch behind Freeman and hit him in the hip on the next delivery, which caused him to be tossed.

Nolin blamed the high humidity in Atlanta for his inability to throw the ball accurately and denied he was trying to retaliate for Soto being plunked the previous night.

“It was the first inning. I wasn’t expecting (the ejection),” Nolin said. “It just happens. The ball slips out of your hand.”

Washington manager Dave Martinez had a conversation with Freeman and said he explained, “I never tell anybody to hit anybody,” and that Freeman told him, “We’re good.” Freeman later hugged Soto when he reached first base.

But there was little doubt about the message Soto sent after his 462-foot homer on Wednesday when he seemed to blow a kiss toward the Atlanta bullpen, a message no doubt intended for Smith.

Soto and Smith have history that dates to a terse exchange last summer.

Martinez said, “He just wants to play the game. He didn’t say much. He was just ready to play.”

The two teams will meet for the final time on Thursday. Atlanta leads the season series 13-5.

Atlanta (73-65) retained its 2 1/2-game lead over Philadelphia, which lost to Milwaukee on Wednesday. Washington (58-81) broke a five-game losing streak to the Braves.

The starting pitchers in Thursday’s series finale are Washington’s Erick Fedde (6-9, 5.27 ERA) against Atlanta’s Huascar Ynoa (4-5, 3.19) in a battle of right-handers.

Fedde will get his 24th start. Last Saturday against the New York Mets, he was knocked out after three innings when he allowed seven runs (four earned).

Fedde hasn’t had much luck against the Braves. In seven career appearances, six starts, he is 0-4 with an 11.92 ERA. He is 0-3 with an 11.12 ERA in three starts against Atlanta this season.

Ynoa will make his 13th start this season and has pitched at least five innings in 10 of them. At Colorado last Friday, he allowed four runs in 5 2/3 innings with five strikeouts.

“He got a little out of whack one inning, but he settled down and I thought he was pretty good,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s all the time learning things. He’s got such a bright upside. He’s going to get better and better.”

Ynoa is 1-0 with a 3.10 ERA in five appearances (three starts) against Washington in his career. He has allowed only one run (unearned) in 12 innings against the Nationals this season.

–Field Level Media

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