ATLANTA — Even on an Atlanta Braves roster filled with players who are thriving in pressure situations, Orlando Arcia stands out to manager Brian Snitker as a clutch hitter.
Arcia broke an eighth-inning tie with an infield single as the Braves beat the Washington Nationals 3-2 on Friday night in yet another comeback victory for the National League East Division's top team.
"He's got a slow heartbeat," Snitker said of Arcia, who also hit the tying homer in a 13-10 comeback win over the New York Mets in 10 innings Thursday night. "He puts a lot of balls in play. He's a guy you want to see in those situations because he can slow everything down."
Trailing 2-1, the Braves rallied against Kyle Finnegan (3-3) for two runs (one earned) for their sixth consecutive win and fourth in a row over a division opponent.
The victory came after the Braves overcame deficits of at least three runs in each game of a three-game sweep of the Mets. The second victory in the Braves' current winning streak was also a comeback, 8-5 this past Sunday against the NL West's Arizona Diamondbacks on a ninth-inning grand slam by Eddie Rosario.
"We know the offense can score any time and the bullpen and starters can keep us in games," said Atlanta first baseman Sean Murphy, who led off the eighth with a single that hit Finnegan's leg.
Pinch-runner Sam Hilliard moved to third on a single by Rosario, who then moved to second on a fielding error by right fielder Lane Thomas.
Marcell Ozuna drove in Hilliard with a grounder to first base that Dominic Smith briefly bobbled as he looked to throw to the plate. Arcia's grounder was bobbled by shortstop CJ Abrams and ruled a hit as Rosario scored the go-ahead run.
"I was just focused on making good contact and driving in the run any way possible," Arcia said through a translator.
Nationals manager Dave Martinez said his team couldn't afford the crucial misplays on defense.
"We played well until the bottom of the eighth," he said. "As I say, if you give good teams extra outs, they're going to get you."
Braves rookie AJ Smith-Shawver, a 20-year-old right-hander, did not allow an earned run in 5 1/3 innings, making his first MLB start less than two years after his professional debut. Smith-Shawver, who threw 2 1/3 scoreless relief innings at Arizona on Sunday in his lone appearance before moving into the rotation, allowed three hits and two unearned runs.
A home sellout crowd of 40,297 was on hand at Truist Park for his first start.
"I don't think the feeling I had out there was normal compared to anywhere I've pitched," Smith-Shawver said, adding he felt he "started to settle in a little bit" by the second inning.
Kirby Yates (2-0) pitched a perfect eighth against the Nationals, and Raisel Iglesias finished for his ninth save this year, his first in the closer's role for Atlanta.
Thomas scored each of Washington's runs. He singled, stole second and scored on a single by Luis Garcia in the first. In the sixth, he reached on a fielding error by Arcia, then moved to second on Garcia's groundout before Joey Meneses gave the Nationals a 2-1 lead with his double off Collin McHugh. Thomas was initially called out at second before a successful challenge by Martinez.
Ozzie Albies, who hit the walk-off homer in Thursday night's win, led off the second inning Friday with a walk, advanced to third on two wild pitches by Gray, then scored on Arcia's groundout.
The Nationals have lost five straight games and eight of their past 10, dropping this one despite a strong start from Josiah Gray, who overcame four walks and four wild pitches to allow only one run. Gray gave up two hits and struck out six batters in five innings.
The three-game series between Atlanta (39-24) — which is seeking its sixth straight NL East title and currently has the best record in the National League — and last-place Washington (25-37) continues Saturday afternoon. Both teams plan to start left-handers as Washington's MacKenzie Gore (3-4, 3.66) and Atlanta's Jared Shuster (2-2, 4.99) take the mound.
In injury news for Atlanta, left-handers Max Fried (strained forearm) and Dylan Lee (shoulder inflammation) are throwing long toss but have not been scheduled to throw off a mound. The Braves also are tracking the progress of right-hander Kyle Wright (shoulder inflammation), who is not yet throwing long toss.