Gonzalez cruising, Adams departs early (Nats win 5-3 in 14)

ATLANTA - Gio Gonzalez is authoring another gem. Juan Soto and Michael A. Taylor have supplied some early offense, but the Nationals will have to play the rest of today’s game without cleanup hitter Matt Adams.

Adams departed in the middle of the fourth inning with an apparent injury. He fouled a ball off his foot in the top of the frame before flying out to left field. The Nationals do not provide in-game injury updates, so Adams’ abrupt exit will be something of a mystery for a few more hours.

Veteran Mark Reynolds replaced Adams at first base for the bottom of the fourth.

Gonzalez throws red.jpgIf Gonzalez keeps pitching like this, the Nats won’t miss Adams’ bat in the heart of their lineup. The left-hander has retired the Braves’ first 12 batters in order, striking out five and needing only 48 pitches to do it.

Atlanta boasts the majors’ most-productive lineup against left-handers, but Gonzalez has completely shut down that group so far today, most notably with two inning-ending strikeouts of slugger Freddie Freeman. He hasn’t faced any real close calls yet, aside from an errant throw by shortstop Trea Turner that required a nifty leap-and-tag by Adams to get Ozzie Albies in the bottom of the first.

A Nationals lineup that was held to two hits last night and four total hits over a 16-inning stretch in this series finally broke through in the top of the second. Soto got it started with a one-out single - he recorded another hit later to raise his batting average to .350 in 12 big-league games. Taylor then launched a 2-1 curveball from Brandon McCarthy deep to left-center for his fifth homer of the season.

Thus, the Nationals lead 2-0 in the middle of the fifth.

Update: That turned in a hurry. Gonzalez gave up a single to Nick Markakis to open the fifth, then another single to Tyler Flowers, then grooved a 2-0 changeup to Johan Camargo, who launched it 430 feet to center field for a three-run homer. It’s only the second three-run homer Gonzalez has served up in the last two calendar years, but it’s a big one. The Nats suddenly trail 3-2.

Update II: Juan Soto, ladies and gentlemen. He’s 3-for-3 today, and he crushed a game-tying homer in the top of the seventh, off an 0-2 splitter from reliever Sam Freeman, a left-hander. The kid is impressive, no doubt about it. And so this game is tied, 3-3 heading to the eighth.

Update III: This game is going into extra innings, thanks to some dominant work from the Nats bullpen. Ryan Madson retired the side in the eighth on only seven pitches. Sammy SolĂ­s and Shawn Kelley then combined to retire the heart of the Braves order in the bottom of the ninth and keep this a 3-3 game heading to the 10th.

Update IV: This game is still being contested. We’re heading to the 13th inning after both bullpens keep posting zeroes. The Nats had a chance in the 11th with the bases loaded and two out, but Soto was run up by third base umpire Tom Hallion on a questionable check-swing call. And so this game continues...

Update V: Needing an offensive from someone, anyone, who else would the Nats turn to but ... Max Scherzer? Yes, indeed. The pitcher got a chance to pinch-hit with one out in the 14th and promptly singled up the middle to get the rally started. Then he scored all the way from first base on Wilmer Difo’s triple into the right-center field gap. And when Difo scored on Spencer Kieboom’s subsequent RBI single, the Nats had themselves a 5-3 lead. Sean Doolittle then closed it out and gave the Nats a very-much-needed victory on a long afternoon/evening in Atlanta.

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