The Atlanta Braves suffered their second consecutive loss to the Washington Nationals on Sunday, falling 4-1 at Truist Park.
The Braves’ offense was held to just four hits and one run by Nationals starter Paolo Espino and three relievers, while the Nationals scored four runs on nine hits against Braves starter Jared Shuster and four relievers.
Shuster, the Braves’ first-round pick in 2020, made his major league debut in place of the injured Charlie Morton. The left-hander showed some nerves in the first inning, walking two batters and allowing a two-run double to Juan Soto.
He settled down after that, retiring nine of the next 10 batters he faced. He finished with four innings pitched, allowing two runs on two hits and two walks, while striking out four.
The Braves’ only run came in the fourth inning, when Freddie Freeman hit a solo home run off Espino. It was Freeman’s 36th homer of the season, tying him with Bryce Harper for the National League lead.
The Braves had a chance to tie the game in the sixth inning, when they loaded the bases with one out against reliever Andres Machado. However, Machado struck out Jorge Soler and induced a groundout from Austin Riley to end the threat.
The Nationals added two insurance runs in the eighth inning against reliever Luke Jackson. Alcides Escobar led off with a single and stole second base. He scored on a single by Lane Thomas, who advanced to third on a throwing error by Eddie Rosario. Thomas then scored on a sacrifice fly by Soto.
The Braves went down quietly in the ninth inning against closer Kyle Finnegan, who earned his ninth save of the season. The Braves dropped to 88-71 with the loss, while the Nationals improved to 67-92 with the win.
The Braves will try to avoid being swept by the Nationals in the series finale on Monday, when they will send Max Fried to the mound against Josiah Gray.
Final Thoughts: Braves Fall to Nationals in Second Straight Loss
The Atlanta Braves suffered a disappointing 4-1 loss to the Washington Nationals on Sunday, marking their second consecutive loss to the struggling Nationals.
Despite the efforts of Freddie Freeman, who hit his 36th home run of the season, and Jared Shuster, who made his major league debut, the Braves could not muster enough offense to overcome the Nationals’ solid pitching.
Shuster had a rocky start, allowing two runs in the first inning, but settled down and showed promise as he retired nine of the next 10 batters he faced. Meanwhile, the Braves offense struggled against Nationals starter Paolo Espino and their bullpen, managing just four hits and one run.
The Braves had a chance to tie the game in the sixth inning, but were unable to capitalize on a bases-loaded opportunity, as they struck out and grounded out to end the inning.
The Nationals then added two insurance runs in the eighth inning against Luke Jackson, and the Braves went down quietly in the ninth against Nationals closer Kyle Finnegan.
This loss puts the Braves at 88-71 on the season, and they will need to bounce back quickly if they hope to secure their spot in the postseason. Meanwhile, the Nationals improved to 67-92, but are still far out of playoff contention.
Overall, the Braves’ inconsistent offense and shaky pitching in this series against the Nationals are cause for concern as they head into the final stretch of the season. They will need to regroup and refocus if they hope to make a deep run in the playoffs.