ATLANTA (AP)Jon Lester wasn’t worried about pitching on short rest. His strong outing was well-timed for a Washington team that again has lost Stephen Strasburg to an injury.
Lester gave Washington’s thin rotation a boost, Yan Gomes hit a go-ahead homer in the eighth inning and the Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 5-3 on Wednesday night.
Lester, starting on three days’ rest, was asked by Washington manager Dave Martinez to ”just take us as long as he can go.” Lester came within one out of matching his longest start of the season as he gave up only one run on five hits and two walks in 5 2/3 innings.
”I basically told him just tell me when I’m pitching and I’ll be there,” Lester said. ”That’s kind of how I’ve always looked at it.”
Lester’s start was especially important after Strasburg was placed on the 10-day injured list with a neck strain before the game. Strasburg previously was on the 10-day IL from April 15 until May 21 with right shoulder inflammation.
”He was really good. Really good,” Martinez said of Lester. ”He gave us everything we needed.”
Lester faced no limitations.
”I said, `Hey, if we’re going to do this, I don’t want to be on a pitch count,”’ Lester said. ”I just wanted it to be a normal start.”
Gomes’ drive to left-center off A.J. Minter (1-2) with two outs broke a 3-all tie.
Juan Soto’s two-run homer in the fifth gave Washington a 3-1 lead. Ozzie Albies’ two-run double in the seventh tied the game.
Dansby Swanson’s homer to right-center tied the game in the second.
Washington right-hander Tanner Rainey gave up a double to pinch-hitter Abraham Almonte to open the seventh. Rainey struck out pinch-hitter Pablo Sandoval and Ronald Acuna Jr. before walking Freddie Freeman.
Albies’ double to the wall in right-center off Daniel Hudson (4-1) drove in Almonte and Freeman to tie the game. Hudson remained in the game to pitch a perfect eighth.
Brad Hand worked the ninth for his ninth save in 11 chances.
Trea Turner’s single off Chris Martin in the ninth drove in Victor Robles and pushed the lead to two runs.
The Braves (25-28) fell three games under .500.
”Like I’ve said before, we haven’t been able to hit on all cylinders,” manager Brian Snitker said. ”It’s up to us as a club to keep it going because believe me, it’s going to happen.”
Drew Smyly allowed three runs on seven hits and two walks in 4 1/3 innings.
Nationals: LF Kyle Schwarber left the game after his right knee locked up on a dive for Almonte’s double in the seventh. Martinez said Schwarber will be checked before Thursday’s game. Andrew Stevenson replaced Schwarber in left field. … RHP Erick Fedde (illness) apparently is not a candidate to take Strasburg’s spot in the rotation Sunday at Philadelphia. Fedde is still scheduled make a rehab start for Class A Wilmington on Thursday and could rejoin the Washington rotation next week. … RHP Kyle McGowin was recalled from Triple-A Rochester.
Braves: RHP Edgar Santana favored his right leg leaving the field but apparently avoided an injury when he was hit by Josh Harrison’s liner in the seventh. Santana threw out Harrison. … OF Cristian Pache (right hamstring strain) was activated from the 10-day IL and optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett. Pache was hitting only .111 before the injury.
Swanson’s homer gave him an 11-game hitting streak, matching the longest of his career. The homer was his ninth. His career high was 17 in 2019. He narrowly missed a second homer in the sixth when his long fly was caught at the left-field wall by Schwarber.
”I think they changed the ball on me on the second one,” Swanson said with a laugh.
SOTO SOLVES SMYLY
Soto had been 0 for 7 against Smyly before hitting a fastball into the stands in left-center to break a 1-all tie. The homer was Soto’s sixth of the season and second in two days.
Nationals LHP Patrick Corbin (3-4, 6.23 ERA) starts Thursday in the finale of the four-game series.
Snitker announced after the game that LHP Tucker Davidson will be recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett to make his second big league start of the season. Sticking with his season-long plan to give starters an extra day of rest when possible, Snitker has pushed back RHP Ian Anderson one day to Friday night’s series opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
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