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Braves rally falls just short in 3-2 loss to Nationals

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Braves fought to the end.

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

The Atlanta Braves rallied in the eighth but fell just short of a series sweep in a 3-2 loss to the Washington Nationals.

The Nationals jumped out to an early lead when Daniel Murphy jumped on an inside fastball from Jaime Garcia and drove it into the right field stands for a solo homer. Washington struck again in the third but not without some help from some shaky Atlanta defense.

Trea Turner led off the third with a deep fly ball to right field that caromed off the glove of Nick Markakis for a rare two-base error. William Difo followed with a come backer to Garcia who couldn’t field it cleanly allowing Difo to reach and put runners on the corners with no one out.

Bryce Harper followed with a single to center to make the score 2-0. Garcia then got a ground ball double play from Ryan Zimmerman but Difo scored on the play to extend the lead to 3-0.

Garcia settled down from there and turned in one of his best performances of the season. He allowed seven hits and just one earned run over eight innings while striking out eight and walking none. Garcia is the first Braves starter to pitch at least eight innings since Matt Wisler last August.

Stephen Strasburg was dominant throughout but started to run out of gas late. Nick Markakis led off the seventh with a double but was stranded at second as Strasburg set down the next three Braves batters in order.

Atlanta finally broke through in the eighth when Rio Ruiz worked a one out walk to get things started. Brandon Phillips struck out in a pinch hit appearance before Ender Inciarte served a soft single to left to bring the tying run to the plate in Dansby Swanson.

Swanson came to the plate having struck out in each of his first three plate appearances but he worked a good at bat and eventually lined a double off the right center field wall to score two and to chase Strasburg from the game. However, Koda Glover entered and retired Markakis on strikes to end the inning and the threat.

Strasburg was brilliant for most of the afternoon. He allowed five hits and two earned runs while striking out 10 and walking just one over 7 23 innings. He threw 118 pitches with 86 going for strikes.

After Luke Jackson worked a scoreless ninth for Atlanta, Matt Kemp led off the ninth with an opposite field single off of Glover. Unfortunately Matt Adams followed with an absolute rocket that was snagged by Zimmerman for a tough luck double play. Glover then got Kurt Suzuki to pop out on the infield to end it.

The Braves were stymied for most of the day offensively. Kemp finished 2-for-4 with a double and has reached base in 25 straight games. Swanson accounted for both of Atlanta’s runs with his eighth inning double. Adams went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in his Braves debut.

Still Atlanta has to be encouraged by the way they battled back on Sunday and for how they performed in the series. The Braves have won 7 of their last 10 and are 18-23 on the season.

Next up for Atlanta is a four-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates which gets underway at SunTrust Park on Monday.