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Washington Nationals drop series opener to Atlanta Braves 5-3; fifth straight loss overall

Davey Martinez’s club has now lost five in a row. That’s ... not great.

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

Joe Ross settled in after a rough start this afternoon in Atlanta, but the Braves jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning of the first of four with Washington’s Nationals in Truist Park and went on to win 5-3 in the series opener with their divisional rivals.

Ross vs ATL: With a 5.73 ERA, .270/.365/.427 line against, and an (0-3) record in five starts and 22 IP to this point in May, Joe Ross took the mound tonight in Atlanta looking to avoid going winless on the month, and he was coming off a solid if short outing this past week in the nation’s capital.

Ross tossed four scoreless against the Reds before rain interrupted his outing last week, and talked afterwards about feeling better on the mound than he had in recent starts.

“It felt really good. I felt like I was a little more back on track than the last couple games,” the recently-turned-28-year-old starter said.

Having that outing end early was a little frustrating, Ross admitted.

“I would say more so just because the last couple starts hadn’t been so great,” he said.

Back on the mound this afternoon in Atlanta’s Truist Park, Ross was right in it from the jump, giving up an infield single by Ronald Acuña, Jr., and then issuing back-to-back walks to both Freddie Freeman and Ozzie Albies, which loaded the bases with Braves before an out was recorded. Austin Riley lined out to second for out No. 1, but Dansby Swanson hit a sac fly to right, 1-0, before the third walk of the inning loaded the bases back up, and catcher William Contreras threw his bat at an 0-2 slider not far enough outside and singled to left-center to drive in two more, 3-0 after one.

Acuña, Jr. hit a 2-1 fastball over the plate out to right for an opposite field home run with one down in the second, 4-0.

It was a 4-3 game, after Josh Bell homered (a two-run shot) and Ross helped his own cause with a two-out, RBI single in the top of the fourth, and the righty came back out and struck out the side in an 11-pitch frame for a nice shutdown inning.

Ross was up to nine in a row set down and four straight strikeouts after he got Acuña on a 2-2 changeup outside to start the fifth, and up to 11-straight outs after a 16-pitch, 1-2-3 frame.

His spot in the order came up with a runner on third and no one out in the sixth, so that was it for Ross’s outing...

Joe Ross’s Line: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 7 Ks, 1 HR, 87 P, 56 S, 3/4 GO/FO.

Morton vs D.C.: Veteran hurler Charlie Morton signed a 1-year/$15M free agent deal with the Braves this winter. Morton, 37, got off to a less-than-stellar start, putting up a 4.76 ERA and a better-than-expected-when-we-started-this-sentence .229/.305/.352 line against in his first five starts and 28 13 IP this season.

In five May starts and 23 23 IP before this afternoon’s outing, the veteran had settled in a bit, however, with a 3.04 ERA and a .236/.320/.360 line against over that stretch, and he worked around a one-out single and a walk to get off to a good start against the Nats in Atlanta, and then came back out for the second with a 3-0 lead and retired the side in order.

It was 4-0, and Morton was up to eight-straight outs after the two Nationals reached in the first, after a 15-pitch, 1-2-3 third, but he walked Juan Soto to start the fourth, then gave up a two-run shot on a 96 MPH 0-2 fastball up high outside that Josh Bell powered out to center, 4-2. Bell’s 7th.

Starlin Castro singled and Yan Gomes walked in the two at bats after Bell’s blast, and a two-out RBI single to right by Joe Ross made it a one-run game, 4-3, after 5 1/2.

Morton stranded two runners when Starlin Castro lined out sharply to left field to end a 13-pitch fifth that left that starter at 91 overall, and he was done for the day at that point...

Charlie Morton’s Line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 6 Ks, 1 HR, 91 P, 62 S, 5/3 GO/FO.

Turner 4K Games?: When was the last time Trea Turner, who was 0 for 4 with four Ks in his first four plate appearances today, struck out four times in a game? Go ahead and pull up a couple game logs, we’ll wait... if you didn’t bother, it was back on July 8, 2018 against Miami at home in Nationals Park, when he went 0 for 7 with 5 Ks in a game. And before that, it was June 2nd of that year, when he was 0 for 5 with 4 Ks in a game against the Braves in Atlanta, GA. Would’ve been cooler narrative-wise if the last one was in Atlanta, but whatever.

Bullpen Action: Luke Jackson took over for the Braves in the top of the sixth inning, and he gave up an infield single on a swinging bunt by Yan Gomes, who took second on an errant throw to first on the play, and moved to third on a sac bunt by Andrew Stevenson. Yadiel Hernández grounded out to second in the next at bat, failing to bring Gomes in, and Trea Turner, 0 for 3 with 3 Ks vs Charlie Morton, went down swinging at a 2-2 slider to end the threat.

Kyle Finnegan came on in the sixth for the Nationals, and gave up one-out and back-to-back two-out singles as the Braves added to their lead, with Dansby Swanson, William Contreras, and Guillermo Heredia all connecting for hits, 5-3. A walk to Ehire Adrianza loaded them up for Ronald Acuña, Jr., who battled for eight pitches, but K’d looking at a 3-2 slider for out No. 3. Braves leave’em loaded. Still 5-3 ATL.

A.J. Minter retired the Nationals in order in the top of the seventh.

Sam Clay made quick work of the Braves in the bottom of the inning.

Chris Martin’s 1-2-3 top of the eighth made it nine-straight outs for the Nats going back to Andrew Stevenson’s sac bunt in the sixth.

Tanner Rainey worked around a one-out walk in a scoreless eighth.

Will Smith came on for the save opportunity and retired the Nationals in order to end it.

Final Score: 5-3 Braves

Nationals now 21-29