WASHINGTON — While giving some of their regulars a chance to rest during Sunday’s doubleheader at Nationals Park, the Braves enjoyed the thrill of seeing Forrest Wall hit his first career home run.
Wall’s two-run homer in the sixth backed Spencer Strider and helped the Braves split the twin bill with an 8-5 win over the Nationals in the nightcap. The victory secured Atlanta’s second consecutive 100-win season for the first time since 2002-03.
“It’s unbelievable,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s hard to do. That’s quite an accomplishment any time you can win 100 games.”
- Games remaining (6): vs. CHC (3), vs. WSH (3)
- Standings update: The Braves (100-55) have clinched a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the National League Division Series. They are the top NL division leader, meaning they would face the winner of the No. 4 vs. No. 5 Wild Card in a five-game NL Division Series starting on Oct. 7.
- Home-field advantage: The Braves have a three-game lead over the Orioles for MLB’s best record and home-field advantage through the World Series. They have a 3 1/2-game lead over the Dodgers in the battle for the NL’s best record and home-field advantage through the NL Championship Series.
Austin Riley and Marcell Ozuna rested as the Braves tested Kyle Wright out of the bullpen in Game 1. With both Ronald Acuña Jr. and Eddie Rosario resting during the nightcap, Wall was put in the starting lineup for the first time in his young big league career. The 27-year-old outfielder toiled at the Minor League level for nine years before getting his first call to the Majors this summer.
Wall is known for his incredible speed and basestealing abilities. He will likely only be used as a pinch-runner when the postseason begins. But he showed a little power potential when he turned on a Jose Ferrer fastball and drilled it 366 feet down the right-field line. The fleet-footed rookie is 3-for-8 with a homer and two doubles as a big leaguer.
“Oh, it’s everything,” Wall said. “You know, it’s been a long time. I’m so grateful today that the organization trusted me and gave me the opportunity to start.”
Here are some things to watch for during the six-game homestand that concludes the regular-season schedule.
Smoltz’s record and 20 wins: Strider entered Sunday needing just seven strikeouts to break John Smoltz’s modern era franchise record for strikeouts in a season. But this wasn’t one of the better outings for the right-hander, who allowed four runs while notching four strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings.
“There’s no excuse to not execute the way I did tonight,” a visibly frustrated Strider said.
Strider leads the Majors with 274 strikeouts and 19 wins. He has one more start to break the record Smoltz set with 276 strikeouts in 1996. This final outing will also give him a chance to join Wright (2022), Russ Ortiz (2003) and Tom Glavine (2000) as the only Braves pitchers to notch a 20-win season in the 2000s.
But Strider’s focus is on ending the regular season with a satisfying outing. He allowed five straight two-out hits in a three-run third Sunday and then retired eight straight before allowing Luis García’s opposite-field homer in the sixth.
“Teams in the playoffs are gonna have similar approaches, I imagine,” Strider said. “Hopefully, we can make some adjustments and figure out how to be more effective. I think all the pieces were there to be successful tonight. I just didn’t do my job.”
308 homers: Sean Murphy highlighted the first game with a broken-bat, 398-foot homer. Wall’s homer was the 299th hit by the Braves. This leaves the team nine home runs shy of breaking the MLB record the Twins set when they hit 307 homers in 2019.
136 RBIs: Matt Olson came within an eyelash of increasing his MLB-leading home run total to 54 in the fourth inning. But a crew chief review confirmed his long drive hit off the top of the right-center-field wall and caromed back onto the field for a double that increased his MLB-leading RBI total to 133.
Olson broke the Atlanta record Gary Sheffield set when he drove in 132 runs for the 2003 Braves. He needs three more RBIs to break the modern era franchise record Eddie Mathews set with 135 in 1953.