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Eighth-inning bullpen collapse dooms Braves in 7-3 loss to Nationals

Atlanta allowed six runs in the top of the eighth en route to its 83rd loss of the season.

Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

An abysmal top of the eighth inning that featured four walks, four hits and six runs led to Atlanta’s demise as the Braves fell to the Washington Nationals at SunTrust Park Wednesday, 7-3.

Relief pitcher Jose Ramirez struck out Matt Wieters to lead off the top of the eighth inning with the Braves leading 2-1. He followed it up, however, by giving up a single to Wilmer Difo followed by a double from Trea Turner. After walking Jayson Werth to load the bases, Ramirez was replaced by Arodys Vizcaino.

Vizcaino proceeded to issue three consecutive bases-loaded walks, bringing in three runs to give the Nationals a 4-2 lead before being relieved by Rex Brothers without recording an out. Worse than that? Two of the three walks came on just four pitches.

As pointed out by the AJC’s David O’Brien on Twitter, it was unarguably one of the worst relief appearances of all time.

Brothers was unable to minimize the damage as Washington used back-to-back singles to drive in three runs and open up a 7-2 lead.

Atlanta got a run back in the bottom of the eighth inning on a one-out solo home run from Jace Peterson, but it was not enough to overcome the ineptitude of the Braves’ bullpen.

Rookie right-hander Lucas Sims made his return to the starting rotation Wednesday after four relief appearances during a short bullpen stint. Despite giving up a home run to the first batter he faced, he bounced back to finish with a final line of 5.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R (1 ER), 2 BB, 6 K.

A.J. Minter and Sam Freeman backed Sims up with a combined two innings of hitless relief. Ramirez and Vizcaino were credited with three earned runs apiece over a combined 13 inning of relief.

Washington left-hander Gio Gonzalez struck out eight while walking one and allowing a pair of earned runs on three hits over seven innings pitched. The Nationals bullpen closed the door on Atlanta by combining to allow just one run on one hit over three innings.

The Nationals didn’t waste any time putting a dent in the scoreboard as Turner connected on the first pitch he saw — a 91.8 mph fastball placed left over the middle of the plate — and drove it into the bullpen in left field for a solo home run with nobody out in the top of the first inning.

Freddie Freeman saw the score and raised Washington a solo shot of his own in the bottom of the opening frame, landing a two-out shot it in the second deck of the Chop House to tie the game at one run apiece.

Through 106 games (468 plate appearances) in 2017, Freeman is now slashing .317/.412/.611 with 28 home runs, 70 RBIs and 160 wRC+.

Tied 1-1 in the top of the fifth inning, Kurt Suzuki launched a solo home run into the Washington bullpen in left field to give the Braves a one-run advantage.

Atlanta will look to avoid the sweep Thursday as right-hander R.A. Dickey (9-10, 4.41 ERA) is scheduled to square off against right-hander Tanner Roark (13-9, 4.43 ERA) in the series finale at 7:35 p.m. ET.

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