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Braves get bopped by Nationals, 11-6

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Max Fried had three wild pitches to his name. William Contreras had two passed balls of his own. That, plus some bad pitching, equals losing baseball.

Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Washington’s offense hit the Braves early and they hit them often, as they exploded for 11 runs in total tonight. It was more than enough to beat the Braves on this night by a score of 11-6.

If you were looking forward to tonight’s game being a pitcher’s duel, then unfortunately those fantasies were scuffed away relatively quickly. Max Fried and Stephen Strasburg both didn’t last long, with the latter finding himself in injury trouble almost immediately. Nationals manager Davey Martinez and their athletic trainer had a meeting with Strasburg after he walked Ronald Acuña Jr. on four pitches. The meeting ended with Strasburg staying in the game, but he didn’t last much longer.

Strasburg only made it two batters into the second inning before exiting the game after getting hit in the outside of his glove with a comebacker. He had been struggling with some significant dips in his velocity and seemed to be exerting himself way too hard to be throwing in the very low 90s. Either way, it was definitely a concerning outing for the Nationals as Strasburg continues to struggle with injury issues.

As far as Max Fried is concerned, it was an outing of frustration for both himself and his battery mate, William Contreras. Fried started off the game giving up a run following two singles and a debatable wild pitch that allowed Trea Turner to score from third. I say “debatable” because you could easily argue that it was a passed ball on the part of Contreras, but there wouldn’t be much more debate going forward since the next gaffes for Contreras and Fried had some clear-cut culprits.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Atlanta Braves
A night to forget for Contreras
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Fried managed to get through the second inning without giving up a run, but he also tossed another two wild pitches in that frame and Contreras contributed a passed ball that was pretty clearly on the rookie catcher. While Fried and Contreras somehow kept it clean in third inning when it came to the wild pitches and passed balls, Fried did give up his second run of the game and contributed to it himself with a bit of a mental error. He had a fielder’s choice opportunity after Ryan Zimmerman hit a grounder. Instead of taking the out that Zimmerman had given him, Fried tried to throw out Juan Soto at second base. The throw was off target, Soto was safe, and then Soto proceeded to score the go-ahead run when Kyle Schwarber hit a grounder into the outfield to make it 2-1 Nationals at the time.

The fourth inning was just an absolute mess for the Braves. For the third time in four innings, Fried allowed the leadoff batter to reach base. To make matters worse, the leadoff batter for the Nationals was reliever Austin Voth, who picked up his second career Major League base hit on an infield single. To put the icing on the cake, Voth came around to score with two outs on the board after Fried extended the inning by hitting Josh Harrison with a pitch and then William Contreras picked up his second official passed ball of the game. That led to Juan Soto bringing both Voth and Harrison home with a single and that was the final at-bat of the night for Max Fried. Edgar Santana made sure that Fried finished with five earned runs, as the first pitch he threw to Ryan Zimmerman was deposited into the bushes just in front of the seats in right-center field to make it 6-1 Washington at that point.

The Braves showed some life in the fifth inning and even made it back into a game. They scored three in the fifth inning, and two of them came from Ronald Acuña Jr. launching himself back to the top of MLB’s home run leaderboard. He crushed a moonshot over the left-center field fence to make it 6-3, and then Dansby Swanson delivered a two-out RBI single with two men on to score another run and bring the Braves within two. At that point, there was some hope that if the Braves could hold the Nationals at bay from then on, we could have an exciting finish on our hands.

No such thing occurred. Tyler Matzek made his first appearance since May 22 to pitch the seventh inning of tonight’s game and let’s just say it looked like he was rusty. He walked Juan Soto to lead off the inning and after striking out Ryan Zimmerman, the next three Nats all picked up hits — Kyle Schwarber picked up an RBI on a single and then Yan Gomes doubled home two runs to put the lead back at five runs for the Nationals.

Grant Dayton got the ball for the eighth inning and only fared a little bit better than Tyler Matzek did. Matzek gave up three runs, but Dayton only gave up two. The two runs were loud though, as Juan Soto capped off his huge night by destroying a 92 mph fastball that was right in the heart of the strike zone for a two-run dinger. That made it 11-5 at the time, as this was yet another forgettable night for this Braves bullpen.

If anything good happened for the Braves tonight, Ronald Acuña Jr. was either somewhere in the middle of it or the root cause of it. Acuña finished the night with three hits (one of which was a homer and another being a double), one walk, two RBIs and four runs scored. He also picked up two stolen bases, so the 40/40 watch currently stands at 17/8. If he can get a couple more stolen bases in short order then you’ll start to see the 40/40 watch really start to heat up.

Other than Acuña’s wonderful night, there wasn’t much to get excited about. Max Fried had a rough night, William Contreras had a night to forget, the bullpen continues to be the bullpen, and Atlanta’s offense did well but was unable to keep up with the Nationals and their onslaught of big hits. It was another long night at the ballpark at the Braves, who are now back at two games below .500 once again.