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Washington Nationals drop 7-6 decision to Atlanta Braves in first of two today in D.C.

Erick Fedde struggled and the bullpen (after 4 1⁄3 scoreless combined) coughed up a run late in a 7-6 win for the Braves in Nationals Park.

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals Game 1 Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Neither of the starters went deep in the first matchup of today’s doubleheader between the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves in the nation’s capital, with Erick Fedde (1.2 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 3 BB) and Max Fried (2.0 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER) both struggling on the mound, but the bullpens managed to move the game along with strong showings from each side to keep it a one-run game through six, 6-5 Braves.

Wander Suero took over for the Nationals in the top of the seventh and gave up back-to-back singles, then threw a wild pitch with runners on the corners, 7-5 Braves.

Juan Soto walked and scored on a Starlin Castro double in the bottom of the seventh, 7-6, but that’s as close as the Nationals got.

Early Runs: Erick Fedde got a low liner to right field for the second out of the opening frame this afternoon, with Juan Soto making a sliding catch and strong throw in to hold the runner at third in a bases-loaded jam, but a passed ball in the next at bat got the Atlanta Braves on the board, 1-0 early in the first game of the doubleheader in Nationals Park, before the right-handed starter struck Dansby Swanson out to strand two and end a 16-pitch first inning.

Leadoff Robles: Victor Robles singled through the left side on a 2-0 fastball from Max Fried to lead off the bottom of the first inning and scored the easy way when Trea Turner hit one out to left field for a two-run blast and a 2-1 Nats’ lead. Turner’s second in two games.

Juan Soto worked the count full and walked in the next at bat, then took third on a double to short right field by Ryan Zimmerman before scoring on a single to short-center field by Starlin Castro, 3-1.

Zimmerman scored on a sac fly by Andrew Stevenson, 4-1, and the club made Max Fried throw a total of 32 pitches before he was done with his first inning of work.

More Runs: Given a three-run lead to work with, Fedde returned to the mound in the top of the second and gave up four straight hits to start the inning, with two runs coming in to get the Braves back within one, 4-3, and the tying run scored on an Ozzie Albies’ groundout with runners on second and third later in the inning, 4-4, and 6-4 on a two-run double off of the left field fence by Travis d’Arnaud. That was it for Fedde.

Erick Fedde’s Line: 1.2 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 45 P, 27 S, 1/2 GO/FO.

Catching Up: Trea Turner doubled to left-center with one down in the bottom of the second (2 for 2, HR, 2B), but was tagged out at third when Juan Soto sent one back to Max Fried on the mound and had it bounce off the pitcher’s ankle and ricochet to third baseman Austin Riley, for an easy tag play at third base, but Soto took third on a Ryan Zimmerman single in the next AB, and scored on a two-out RBI liner to center by Starlin Castro, 6-5 Braves.

MLB Debuts: Cody Wilson, 24, and a 2018 13th Round pick out of Florida Atlantic University, made the Opening Day roster following the club’s COVID issues, and a strong showing during Spring Training 2021, and he got his first MLB at bat this afternoon, flying out to center field on a 3-2 cutter from Braves’ righty Josh Tomlin.

Sam Clay, 27, and a 2014 4th Round pick by the Minnesota Twins, who never made it to the majors in the Twin Cities, signed a big league deal with the Nationals this winter, and made the bullpen on Opening Day after initially being optioned to Triple-A to start the season.

Clay came on in the top of the fourth this afternoon and gave up a leadoff single by Ronald Acuña, Jr. in the first at bat of the frame, before retiring the next three batters in order, with Ozzie Albies grounding out, Freddie Freeman striking out (looking, on three straight after he started up 3-0), and Marcell Ozuna going down swinging for out No. 3 of a 15-pitch, eight-strike MLB debut.

Bullpen Action: Kyle McGowin got the final out of the Braves’ second with just two pitches, then he returned to the mound and retired the side in order in a 13-pitch top of the third.

Sam Clay (see above) worked around a Ronald Acuña, Jr. leadoff single to complete a quick, 15-pitch, eight-strike fourth in his MLB debut.

Kyle Finnegan struck out the side in a 12-pitch, nine-strike top of the fifth.

Josh Tomlin (two scoreless) and Nate Jones (scoreless fifth) combined for three scoreless to keep the visitors up 6-5 through five innings, still 6-5, after taking over for Max Fried (2.0 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER).

Luis Avilán came on in the top of the sixth inning for the Nationals, and retired the Braves in order in a 14-pitch, 10-strike frame, giving the home team 4 13 scoreless out of the bullpen in which the relievers combined to allow just one hit while striking out seven batters (with no walks).

A.J. Minter worked around a 2-out HBP for a scoreless bottom of the sixth.

Wander Suero gave up back-to-back singles by Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman which set the Braves up with runners on the corners and no one out and a wild pitch to Marcell Ozuna made it a 7-5 game.

Will Smith walked Juan Soto to start the bottom of the seventh, and one out later an RBI to left field by Starlin Castro made it a one-run game, 7-6 Braves.

Luis García got up 3-1, and took the second walk of the inning from Smith, setting Andrew Stevenson with two runners on and one out, but a grounder up the middle started a game-ending double play.

Final Score: 7-6 Braves

Nationals now 1-1