D’Arnaud, Swanson homer as Braves win 3-2, get playoff berth
ATLANTA (AP) — Braves manager Brian Snitker wasn’t overly excited about his team clinching a playoff berth.
He would’ve preferred that the Milwaukee Brewers had beaten the New York Mets so Atlanta would be in a first-place tie in the NL East.
“I hope Milwaukee comes back, quite honestly,” Snitker said before the Mets finished off the Brewers. “But if we get in the door, we give ourselves a chance. That’s what we want to do. The No. 1 thing is we want to win the division and we’re right there to make that happen, but it’s good to give yourself an opportunity when you get in the tournament.”
Travis d’Arnaud broke a scoreless tie with a two-run homer in the fourth inning, Dansby Swanson went deep in the eighth, and the Braves beat the Washington Nationals 3-2 Tuesday night and clinched a playoff berth.
The defending World Series champion Braves secured their trip to the postseason when Milwaukee lost to the Mets 7-5 less than 30 minutes later. Atlanta (93-55) is also vying for its fifth consecutive division title, but remained in second place, one game behind the New York in the NL East.
There was no celebration in the clubhouse after the game. Country music played softly in the background as a few players milled about and talked quietly.
The Braves have much bigger goals in mind than just making the playoffs.
“Obviously we’re aiming for higher, but making the playoffs is a big deal,” d’Arnaud said. “A lot of Hall of Famers played their whole career and never made it to the playoffs. But for us it’s a simple as try to win every series. It’s a marathon. It’s not over.”
Swanson added his 21st homer, an opposite-field solo shot to right off Kyle Finnegan that sailed 379 feet and padded the lead to 3-1. The Braves have won 10 straight games at home, outscoring opponents 47-15 over this stretch. Atlanta is 52-25 at Truist Park and has the NL’s second-best winning percentage in home games.
Matt Olson singled with out in the fourth before d’Arnaud hit his 18th homer, a 422-foot shot off Erasmo Ramírez (4-2) that made it 2-0.
Charlie Morton (8-6) allowed one run and three hits with three walks and nine strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings. He didn’t give up a hit until Victor Robles singled with one out in the third. Robles advanced on a throwing error by Morton on a pickoff move, but Morton struck out the next two batters to end the threat.
Morton avoided trouble in the 31-pitch fourth. He issued a pair of two-out walks, and the runners advanced on a wild pitch before Morton hit CJ Abrams with a pitch to load the bases. The 38-year-old right-hander struck out Ildemaro Vargas to escape the jam.
The last-place Nationals trimmed the lead to 2-1 in the sixth. Joey Meneses doubled and advanced to third on Luke Voit’s single that chased Morton. Collin McHugh had a chance to get out of the jam, but second baseman Vaughn Grissom made a throwing error on a potential double play grounder that scored Meneses and put runners at second and third.
McHugh retired the next two batters to avoid further damage.
Morton improved to 6-1 with a 2.88 ERA in 15 home starts this season.
Kenley Jansen faced seven batters in the ninth for his NL-leading 36th save in 43 chances. The first two batters reached without the ball leaving the infield before Jansen struck out the next two batters. Luis García delivered a run-scoring single to make it 3-2, Meneses was intentionally walked, and Luke Voit flew out to end it with the bases loaded.
Atlanta is 26-8 against Washington over the last two years. The Braves have gone deep 35 times against the Nationals this season and lead the NL with 224 homers.
Washington starter Patrick Corbin left the game with two outs in the first with back spasms. He had a 1-1 count on Matt Olson when Corbin stepped back off the mound and bent over and time was called. Manager Dave Martinez and a trainer came out to see about Corbin, who soon walked off the field under his own power.
“The last pitch that I threw, it grabbed on me,” Corbin said. “I’m not quite sure what it is, but I just tried to hang out there as long as I could to see if it would go away, but it didn’t. I’m just a little sore now.”
Ramírez took over and retired five in a row before Grissom reached on an infield single in the third. Corbin had lost nine consecutive starts against Atlanta and had a 7.28 ERA over that stretch.
For the Braves, the game and the postseason berth were kind of ho-hum affair. Snitker wasn’t surprised that nobody was in the mood to celebrate.
“No, everybody’s tired,” Snitker said. “These guys want to go home and get a good night’s sleep becasue that (12:20 p.m.) game will come early tomorrow.”
Nationals: Martinez said DH Nelson Cruz (eye inflammation) is still not ready to face big league pitching and will stay out of the lineup until he’s ready. ... LHP MacKenzie Gore (left shoulder inflammation) reported no problems after his bullpen session and will make a rehab start with Triple-A Rochester on Friday.
Braves: RHP Spencer Strider has a sore left oblique and will not make his next start Saturday in Philadelphia. Snitker said Strider will not go on the injured list and will play catch until he’s ready to return to the rotation. ... Jansen tweaked his neck trying to field the first ball that was put in play in the ninth. Snitker said he wasn’t sure if the closer would be able to pitch on Wednesday.
Atlanta SS Dansby Swanson made a sliding, backhanded stop of Meneses’ hard grounder in the fourth and threw the runner out easily from the outfield grass. ... Robles ran hard to his left in center field and made a diving catch of d’Arnaud’s liner to end the sixth.
Braves rookie RHP Bryce Elder (1-3, 3.67 ERA) will make his seventh start as the teams conclude a three-game series with a 12:20 p.m. start. The Nationals will start Paolo Espino.