Washington Nationals Drop Two Of Three In Atlanta: Braves 6-3 In Sunday Finale In Turner Field

USA TODAY Sports

The NL East's second-place Washington Nationals dropped two games of their three-game set in Atlanta, Georgia's Turner Field with their 6-3 loss to the Braves this afternoon in the rubber match of the series. The Nats dropped to a game under .500 at 28-29 with the loss.

Danny Espinosa was already playing with a torn rotator cuff. The 26-year-old infielder learned that he had played out the last few weeks of the 2012 campaign with an injured left shoulder after Washington was eliminated from the NLDS with St. Louis, but Espinosa opted against having surgery because it would have caused him to miss the start of the 2013 season. Espinosa decided to strengthen the muscles around the injury instead...

A few weeks into the season, Atlanta Braves' lefty Paul Maholm hit the Nationals' second baseman on the right wrist with a fastball in the bottom of the second inning of an April 14th outing against the Nats in the nation's capital. Espinosa and the Nats know now that the HBP is responsible for the wrist issues which have plagued the Nationals' 2008 3rd Round pick so far this summer. When the discomfort grew worse recently, Espinosa took another trip to the doctor and was diagnosed with a fracture and a bone chip in the wrist that absorbed the blow.

In addition to injuring the Nationals' second baseman, Maholm has held the Nats' bats at bay so far in 2013, entering this afternoon's start with a (1-1) record, a 1.15 ERA, three walks and 11 Ks in two starts and 15.2 IP against the Braves' NL East rivals from D.C.

After Maholm finished a 13-pitch, 1-2-3 first, the Braves' batters gave the lefty a 2-0 lead. Nationals' third baseman Ryan Zimmerman crow-hopped, paused and misfired on a throw to first on an Andrelton Simmons' grounder to third, and Ramiro Pena hit the next pitch from Nate Karns out to right in Turner Field to give the home team an early advantage in the series finale of the Nats' three-game set in Atlanta, GA. Justin Upton singled off Karns and one out later stole second on the pitcher and catcher Jhonatan Solano, but two outs after the stolen base he was stranded at second at the end of a 20-pitch first by the Nationals' rookie right-hander. 2-0 Braves.

Adam LaRoche doubled for the seventh time this season in the first at bat of the Nats' second, then took third when Ian Desmond bunted for a single, pushing one right by the charging pitcher Paul Maholm to first baseman Freddie Freeman who could do nothing with the ball. LaRoche took third on Desmond's bunt and scored on Tyler Moore's RBI single to cut the Braves' lead in half at 2-1 in the second. Danny Espinosa K'd swinging at a sweeping 2-2 slider in his first at bat against Maholm since the HBP in April, falling to 1 for 11 against the left-hander in their respective careers. A Jhonatan Solano groundout moved both Nats' runners into scoring position, but brought up the pitcher, and Nate Karns grounded ou-- reached on an error on the covering pitcher on what should have been a groundout to first when Maholm dropped the toss from Freddie Freeman as he ran to cover the bag. 2-2 game after one and a half in Turner Field.

Make that 3-2 Braves in the bottom of the second. After singling in the winning run in the 10th inning last night, B.J. Upton homered in his first at bat today, crushing a 95 mph 1-0 fastball from Nate Karns for his 15th HR of 2013, the second home run of the game for the Braves today and the fourth Karns has surrendered in his first seven major league innings. Andrelton Simmons hit a two-out single to left off the Nats' starter, but Karns struck Ramiro Pena out with a 1-2 curve and gave the hitter who took him deep in the first and slow-trotted around the bases a little glare as he walked off the mound. 15-pitch second, 35 total after two. #natitude

Paul Maholm was up to 56 pitches after three innings against the Nationals when he finished a 17-pitch, 1-2-3 third, with 10 of the pitches to Adam LaRoche in a two-out at bat that ended in a long, high fly out to B.J. Upton in center field. Justin Upton was 2 for 2 with two hard-hit balls to left after he took a 1-2 fastball from Nate Karns out to Steve Lombardozzi for a leadoff single in the home-half of the third. Freddie Freeman dumped a line drive single into center in the next at bat to put two on Evan Gattis. Karns threw a low, 94 mph, 2-2 heater by Evan Gattis for the first out of the frame and his fourth K of the game. Adam LaRoche flat robbed Brian McCann of a potential hit on a sharp grounder to first the Nats' Gold Glove-winner snagged. LaRoche took the force at second, putting runners on the corners with two down. Karns "missed" low with a 2-2 fastball to Dan Uggla, but got a fly to center with a full-count fastball to strand two Braves and end the third. Still 3-2 Atlanta. 58 pitches total for Karns after a 23-pitch inning.

Danny Espinosa took a long look back at the mound and took a deliberately long walk to first after Paul Maholm hit him in the hip with a first pitch cutter in Espinosa's second at bat of the day today in Turner Field. Espinosa was not happy and he was stranded at first when Jhonatan Solano grounded out to end the top of the fourth. 66 pitches for Maholm after 4.0 IP. Nate Karns threw a 95 mph 2-2 fastball by B.J. Upton, then dropped a 2-2 curve on the opposing pitcher for out no.2 of the Braves' fourth and K no. 6 in 3.2 IP. A fly to Steve Lombardozzi in left ended a 15-pitch fourth that had Karns at 73 pitches overall.

Paul Maholm had set 10 of 11 Nationals down when he completed a 1-2-3 top of the fifth, having allowed only Danny Espinosa (HBP) to reach base after his own two-out error in the second. Nate Karns got over to cover on a Ramiro Pena groundout to first in the first at bat of the Braves' fifth. Justin Upton was 3 for 3 with three singles to left after ripping a grounder through short with one down on Karns' 80th pitch of the game. Freddie Freeman flew to center for out no.2 as it started to rain in Atlanta, Georgia. A two-out walk to Evan Gattis ended Nate Karns' second start. Zach Duke came on to face Brian McCann with two on and two down. The Braves' catcher battled Duke in a nine-pitch at bat that ended with a opposite field RBI line drive to left that brought Upton home to make it 4-2 Atlanta after five.

• Nate Karns' Line: 4.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 Ks, 2 HRs, 88 P, 58 S, 4/3 GO/FO

• Ian Desmond got hold of a hanging-a** 2-2 slider from Paul Maholm and hit his seventh home run of the year out to left. The two-out solo home run got the Nationals within one at 4-3 after five and a half. Reed Johnson hit for Paul Maholm in the bottom of the inning. Johnson and Andrelton Simmons walked in back-to-back ABs to start the Braves' half of the sixth. Ramiro Pena bunted both runners into scoring position, so Davey Johnson called for Duke to put Justin Upton on to load the bases for Freddie Freeman. Freeman just missed a grand slam to left. The Braves' first baseman drove two runs in with an opposite field double that bounced off the yellow padding atop the left field wall and back to Steve Lombardozzi on the warning track. 6-3 Braves. The call stood after a review.

Two on, one out. 6-3 Atlanta. Duke was lifted in favor of right-hander Erik Davis. The 26-year-old pitcher's MLB debut began with a play at the plate as Evan Gattis grounded to third where Ryan Zimmerman made a backhand play and threw home in time for Jhonatan Solano to tag Upton outs. Two down. A Brian McCann groundout to first ended the sixth. Nice debut, Davis.

Danny Espinosa, Jhonatan Solano and Roger Bernadina went down in order in the top of the seventh against right-handed reliever Anthony Varvaro. Erik Davis threw a 93 mph 2-2 fastball by Dan Uggla for the first out of the Braves' seventh. B.J. Upton grounded out to third for out no.2. A 1-2 curve to Reed Johnson got the Nats' right-handed reliever out no.3 of a 14-pitch, 1-2-3 seventh inning in Turner Field. Luis Avilan retired the side in order in the top of the eighth. Still 6-3 Braves. Fernando Abad retired the first two batters he faced in the Braves' eighth, getting a pop to second by Andrelton Simmons and a groundout to third by Ramiro Pena. Justin Upton K'd swinging to end the eighth.

Craig Kimbrel took over on the mound for the Braves in the ninth. Adam LaRoche grounded to first for out no.1. Ian Desmond hit a check-swing single out to second. Two down. Pinch hitter Chad Tracy popped up to the infield to end it. Nationals drop two of three in Atlanta.

6-3 Braves.

Nationals now 28-29

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