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Braves unable to solve Nationals bullpen in 4-2 loss

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The Washington bullpen was outstanding for over eight innings.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Atlanta Braves Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Following some late-game theatrics with the Nationals on Tuesday, the Braves likely had some inkling that Wednesday’s game could feature more of the same. Washington starter Sean Nolin delivered on that belief in the first inning, hitting Freddie Freeman on his second attempt before being ejected. With just one out, this left 823 innings to be covered by the Nationals bullpen. They were up to the task, holding the Braves offense quiet in route to a 4-2 win.

Prior to the chaotic bottom-half of the first, the Nationals already owned a 1-0 lead. Austin Riley began the game with a throwing error, then Touki Toussaint made matters worse by hitting a batter and walking another. He managed to allow just the lone run, but with an elevated pitch count.

Then came the Nolin ejection after the left-hander hit Freddie Freeman. His first attempt sailed behind Freeman, right around the letters on his back. The next plunked the Braves first baseman on the right hip. Following a conference between the umpiring crew, Nolin was ejected having retired just one batter with two on base. Patrick Murphy entered in relief and promptly struck out Austin Riley, then induced a fielder’s choice from Adam Duvall that ended the inning.

The Nationals added another run in the fourth inning on a Josh Bell solo homer to right-center, extending their lead to 2-0. After consecutive walks, Touki Toussaint exited the game having retired just nine batters while walking four. He allowed just one earned run, but threw just 29 strikes in 62 pitches while laboring through three innings.

The Braves finally broke through in the fourth inning with Adam Duvall blasting a homer to left field, cutting the lead in half. Atlanta tied the game two innings later on an Eddie Rosario blast down the right field line, which came on a pitch that nearly hit his back foot. Again, deadline acquisitions continue to help carry the Braves offense.

The tie was short-lived, as Juan Soto untied the game with a seventh inning solo blast to deep right-center. Richard Rodriguez had retired the first two batters, then threw a middle-middle fastball to the hottest hitter in baseball, who crushed it. The final measurement was 462 feet and left Atlanta with a late deficit.

The Nationals scored again in the eighth against Drew Smyly, whose relief stint looked eerily similar to his recent performances in starts. The Braves trailed 4-2 in the eighth and were retired in order. After escaping a mini-rally by the Nationals in the ninth, the Braves had an opportunity to tie with two outs and Freddie Freeman batting. He lined out to left field and the game ended with Atlanta managing just five hits in 823 innings against the lowly Washington relief corps.

This game pretty much encapsulated what the Braves have been this season: maddening. The opposing starter was gone after just three batters and somehow the offense was nearly silenced afterward. The Braves have to beat bad teams and failed in that regard on Wednesday, but will have an opportunity to win the series on Thursday.