Jared Shuster's first career start in the big leagues ended up being an inauspicious one, as a very shaky first inning and a quiet day at the plate for the Atlanta Braves ended up being a recipe for the Washington Nationals’ first win of the 2023 season.
The first inning was one to forget for Jared Shuster, as the Nationals gave him a very rude welcome to the world of Major League Baseball. Usually if you give up three hits and three walks while spreading them across a few innings, you're probably doing okay. If that happens for six batters in a row, you're in serious trouble and that's where Shuster found himself with nobody out and the Nationals already putting three runs on his record.
Fortunately, Jared Shuster finally managed to calm down and while the second out cost him another run to make it 4-0 Nationals at that point, it was relatively smooth sailing for the debutant from that moment onwards. While Shuster still gave up three more hits and walked two more batters, there was nowhere near the danger level that he had to face during the first inning of the start.
It was very encouraging to see Shuster eventually settle into this start and even make it into the fifth inning, which would've been hard to believe after the first inning that he had. While it absolutely wasn't a banner day on the mound for Shuster, the latter part of the start should at least give him enough confidence to realize that he can get the job done at this level.
Shuster also got some help from Sean Murphy when it came to wiping out baserunners. Murphy showed full command of his part of the baseball diamond — both with the glove and with his arm as he caught Luis García stealing in very, very impressive fashion.
On the other side of things, MacKenzie Gore basically had his way with Atlanta's lineup today. Gore finished with 5.1 innings pitched, six strikeouts, three hits allowed and four walks. While the Braves did have their chances, it seemed like every time it was squandered by Gore (or another Nationals pitcher) inducing a ground ball to erase the trouble or end the inning altogether. It's one of those games where you look at the "LOB" column in the box score and wonder what could've been for the losing team, and that's the position that the Braves found themselves in after missing out on the chances that they had.
Atlanta only cashed in one opportunity on the day, and that came in fourth inning after Ronald Acuña Jr. walked to lead off the frame and Ozzie Albies picked up a single to put two runners aboard. That brought Travis d'Arnaud to the plate, as he looked to continue what's been a very solid start to the season so far. He kept it going as he looped one into center field for a single that easily plated Acuña and got the Braves on the board in this one.
Unfortunately, that was all that Atlanta's offense could muster on the day as this ended up being a very quiet day for the Braves after scoring 7 runs in each of their first two games. The situational hitting just wasn't there for Atlanta and credit has to be given to MacKenzie Gore and the rest of the Nationals pitching staff for getting the job done for their team in this one. The silver lining that the Braves can take from this one is that Michael Tonkin did a great job from the bullpen — in fact, the relief corps is still plenty fresh after the first series of the year, so that's a positive.
The Braves still took the series and will be looking to bounce back tomorrow night when they visit the St. Louis Cardinals. They didn't get the sweep today, but there's always the next series, right?