Base running mistakes proved costly for the Atlanta Braves who saw their five-game winning streak come to an end with a 3-2 loss to the Washington Nationals.
The Braves took advantage of some suspect defense by the Nationals to take a first inning lead. Ronald Acuna Jr. single to get things started. After a pop out by Dansby Swanson, Acuña moved up to second on an errant pickoff attempt by Paolo Espino. Austin Riley lined out to center for the second out before Matt Olson worked a walk. William Contreras followed with a swinging bunt, but Espino’s throw to first sailed into the outfield. Acuña scored on the play to make it 1-0.
Atlanta added on in the second as Robbie Grossman singled with one out to get things started. He moved up to second on a soft grounder by Vaughn Grissom and came in to score on a single by Acuña to extend the lead to 2-0.
Bryce Elder struck out the side in the first and allowed two singles over the first four innings. The Nationals scratched across a run in the fifth. Elder struck out Victor Robles to start the inning but then hit Josh Palacios. Tres Barrera followed with a single that put runners at the corners. A sacrifice fly by Lane Thomas scored Palacios to make it 2-1. Elder then gave up a double to Luis Garcia down the line in right that put runners at second and third. Elder then gave a free pass to Joey Meneses to load the bases, but got Luke Voit to ground out on a magnificent play by Vaughn Grissom.
Espino retired seven straight hitters before walking Grissom to start the fifth. That would be the end of the line for him as Dave Martinez summoned Hunter Harvey from the bullpen. Acuña followed with a soft fly ball to center that Victor Robles snagged on a diving attempt and then popped up and threw back to first in time to double off Grissom who couldn’t get back in time. Swanson singled and stole second, but Riley struck out to leave him stranded.
Elder came back out for the sixth and got Ildemaro Vargas to fly out to center. CJ Abrams then reached on another error by Matt Olson at first as a ball in the hole kicked off the heel of his glove. Elder came back and struck out Robles before giving way to Tyler Matzek who walked pinch-hitter Alex Call. However, Matzek right back and got Barrera to pop out harmlessly to Swanson to bring the inning to an end.
Elder turned in another strong performance allowing just four hits, two walks and one run over 5 2/3 innings. He struck out six while throwing 93 pitches.
Atlanta threatened in the sixth, but again came away empty handed. Michael Harris and Eddie Rosario hit back-to-back singles with two outs to put runners at the corners. However, Andres Machado struck out Robbie Grossman swinging to leave them stranded.
Matzek came back out to start the seventh and walked Lane Thomas to start the inning. He then got Luis Garcia to ground into a force play. Brian Snitker then called for Jesse Chavez who promptly served up a two-run home run to Meneses to put Washington in front 3-2.
Grissom singled to lead off the seventh against Carl Edwards Jr, but Acuña popped out and then Swanson struck out on the 12th pitch of the at-bat. Grissom, who was going on the 3-2 pitch, was thrown out by Berrera to end the inning.
Dylan Lee allowed a single but nothing else in a scoreless eighth. The home half of the inning started promisingly but again ended in disappointment. Riley got things started reaching on an infield single to short. After a pop out by Olson, William Contreras walked to put runners at first and second. Michael Harris singled, but Riley got a late break from second and then a late stop sign at third. The Nationals threw back to second and tagged out Contreras who was nearly at third base when Riley retreated. Rosario then hit a bullet right to Garcia to end the inning.
Jackson Stephens kept it a one-run game with a scoreless ninth, but Kyle Finegan retired the Braves in order in the ninth to end the game.
Atlanta drops to 93-56 on the season and could slip to two games back in the NL East standings pending the outcome of the Mets’ game in Milwaukee. The Braves will hit the road Thursday where they will begin a four-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies.