Gausman makes strong return from IL as Braves beat Nats 7-1

Sports

Atlanta Braves’ Kevin Gausman pitches against the Washington Nationals during the first inning of a baseball game Sunday, July 21, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)

ATLANTA (AP) — Kevin Gausman showed he has the potential to add stability to the Atlanta Braves’ rotation.

Just like last year.

Gausman pitched into the eighth inning after missing more than a month, Josh Donaldson and Ronald Acuña Jr. homered, and the Braves beat the Washington Nationals 7-1 on Sunday night to protect their NL East lead.

Atlanta acquired Gausman from Baltimore at the 2018 trade deadline and he won five games with a 2.87 ERA in 10 starts for the Braves. The right-hander had a bloated 6.21 ERA in 13 starts this year before landing on the injured list with plantar fasciitis in his right foot. But he was sharp in his first major league outing since June 10.

Gausman (3-5) allowed five hits and one run in seven-plus innings, with eight strikeouts and no walks.

“Hopefully he does for us what he did a year ago,” said Atlanta manager Brian Snitker, explaining Gausman’s return from the IL “would be like making a trade.”

The Braves’ rotation has endured some turnover, making Gausman’s strong start especially important 10 days before the trade deadline. The team sent struggling 2018 All-Star Mike Foltynewicz to Triple-A Gwinnett and moved Sean Newcomb to the bullpen in the first half while more recently losing Max Fried to the IL with a finger blister.

Gausman said “every guy here is pitching well” and added: “I just hope to be another guy on that long list.”

Nick Markakis hit a two-run single in the first off Joe Ross (0-2). Donaldson added his sixth-inning homer off Ross and a run-scoring single in the seventh. Acuña launched a two-run homer off Kyle McGowin in the eighth.

Following a split of the four-game series, the first-place Braves still lead the Nationals by 6½ games.

“We had chances to especially win three of them, if not all four,” Washington infielder Brian Dozier said.

Added manager Dave Martinez: “You were hoping to make up a couple games.”

Gausman had good control of his fastball and didn’t need to experiment with a curve he worked on during his minor league rehab assignment.

He did not allow a runner to reach second base until the eighth, when he was pulled after giving up singles to Dozier and Kurt Suzuki to open the inning. Pinch-hitter Gerardo Parra’s bloop single off Anthony Swarzak drove in Dozier.

Ross, recalled from Triple-A Fresno before the game, allowed three runs on eight hits and two walks in 5 1/3 innings.

Freddie Freeman had three hits and an RBI for Atlanta.

Nationals center fielder Victor Robles raced in toward the infield to make a diving catch of Dansby Swanson’s shallow fly in the fifth.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Nationals: 1B Ryan Zimmerman left with an apparent right foot injury following an infield single in the second. Zimmerman, who missed 53 games with plantar fasciitis in his right foot this season, showed obvious discomfort while running down the line. “Same foot, same sort of thing,” said Zimmerman, scheduled for an MRI on Monday to determine the severity of the injury. … RHP Austin Voth was a candidate to start the game before he was placed on the 10-day IL, retroactive to Thursday, with right biceps tendinitis.

Braves: RHP Patrick Weigel was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett.

END OF THE ROAD

The loss by Ross snapped a string of 27 consecutive starts without a defeat for Washington’s starting pitchers since a loss by Stephen Strasburg on June 15. It was the longest streak since the 1916 New York Giants.

STREAK STATUS

Acuña singled up the middle but was thrown out at second by Robles to end the second inning. Acuña, who also walked in the seventh before his homer one inning later, has reached safely in 27 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the majors. Acuña didn’t extend his streak of stolen bases in five straight games.

SCHERZER UPDATE

Washington ace Max Scherzer (mid-back strain) could come off the 10-day injured list and return to the rotation Thursday against Colorado. Martinez said Scherzer “felt good” after he “let it go pretty good” while throwing in the outfield. Scherzer is expected to throw a bullpen Monday that could determine his status for Thursday.

UP NEXT

Nationals: RHP Erick Fedde (1-1, 3.50 ERA) starts when Washington opens a home series against Colorado on Monday night.

Braves: Following an off day, LHP Dallas Keuchel (3-3, 3.58) will start Tuesday night’s opener of a two-game series against Kansas City. Keuchel is 4-1 with a 2.56 ERA in eight career starts against the Royals.

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