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Washington Nationals hold on for 2-1 win over New York Mets in series opener in Citi Field...

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Paolo Espino put together a solid start and Juan Soto and Josh Bell drove in runs in a 2-1 Nationals’ win over the Mets.

Washington Nationals v New York Mets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Paolo Espino struck out a career-high seven batters in five innings of work on the mound in Citi Field tonight, and left the game with a 2-1 lead, handing it over to Washington’s bullpen, and the Nationals’ relief corps held on for a win in the series opener with the New York Mets.

Espino vs the Mets: In three starts this month, Paolo Espino had given up 21 hits and 14 runs in 13 13 IP (9.45 ERA) before taking on the Mets tonight.

Last time out on the mound, the 34-year-old right-hander gave up five hits and three earned runs in 4 13 innings against the Milwaukee Brewers, in what ended up a 9-6 loss in which he received no decision.

“It felt good,” Espino said of his outing in Wisconsin. “I think at the end the result, it’s okay, but I felt really good, I think I made a lot of adjustments that I needed to make. Sad that we lost the game, but I think at the end, on my part I think I did an okay job.”

Tonight in New York, Espino was making his second start and fourth appearance against the Nationals’ NL East rivals this season.

In his one start, Espino tossed five scoreless, giving up just five hits back on June 28th in D.C.

In Citi Field, Espino tossed two scoreless to start, on 31 pitches, then singled, and scored a run in the third, before returning to the mound with a 2-0 lead and retiring the side in order in a nine-pitch frame in the bottom of the inning.

Espino threw three sliders by Javier Báez, with the third fouled into catcher Riley Adams’ glove in their first matchup of the night in the Mets’ first, but the infielder got all of a first-pitch fastball the second time up with one out in the fourth, and hit it out to right-center field in Citi Field for a solo home run that cut the Nationals’ lead in half, 2-1.

Espino added two Ks in a 16-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth, which left him at 68 pitches, and the Nationals hit for the starter when his spot came up in the top of the sixth...

Paolo Espino’s Line: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 Ks, 1 HR, 68 P, 49 S, 2/2 GO/FO.

Hill vs the Nats: In his fourth start with the Mets after they acquired him from the Tampa Bay Rays in July, Rich Hill gave up four hits, three walks, and three earned runs over three innings in what ended up an 8-7 loss to the Washington Nationals in which he received no decision.

In six games and five starts overall since he came to New York, the 41-year-old lefty had put up a 5.06 ERA, seven walks, 16 Ks, and a .284/.351/.500 line against in 26 23 IP before taking on the Nationals again in Citi Field.

Hill tossed two scoreless on 36 pitches to start, before he ran into trouble in the third, with Paolo Espino and Alcides Escobar singling around a hit-by pitch on Victor Robles to load them up in front of Juan Soto, who grounded out weakly to first, but brought in a run, 1-0, before Josh Bell drove in Robles with a line drive single to left from the right side to make it a 2-0 lead.

It was 2-1 after four, with Hill striking out the side around an error in the top of the fourth, to give him seven Ks from 19 batters faced, and he returned to the mound in the fifth and set the Nationals down in order in an 11-pitch frame which ended his outing after 91 pitches on the night.

Rich Hill’s Line: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 8 Ks, 91 P, 62 S, 5/2 GO/FO.

SotOBP: Juan Soto started the series in Citi Field having reached base safely in 13 of his last 14 games, over which he’d posted a .556 OBP. He grounded out with the bases loaded to bring in the first run that the Nationals scored in a two-run third, after flying out in the first, and then he lined out to center field the third time up in the fifth, 0 for 3, RBI.

Going up against Jeurys Familia in the eighth, Soto started up 3-0, then took three straight pitches for called strikes as he went down looking, 0 for 4, RBI, K.

Bullpen Action: Heath Hembree came on for NY in the top of the sixth, and retired the Nats in order in a 14-pitch frame.

Andres Machado retired the Mets in order in a 16-pitch bottom of the sixth inning. Still 2-1 Nationals.

Miguel Castro walked Gerardo Parra to start the Nationals’ half of the seventh, but Parra got caught stealing for out No. 1 of a quick, 13-pitch frame in which the Mets’ righty struck out a pair of Nats’ hitters.

Sam Clay struck out two in a 14-pitch, 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh to keep it 2-1 in the Nats’ favor.

Jeurys Familia struck out the side and made everyone look back in a 16-pitch, 1-2-3 top of the eighth.

Kyle McGowin worked around a two-out single in a 19-pitch bottom of the eighth.

Edwin Díaz gave up a two-out double to left by Luis García, but struck Yadiel Hernández out for his third strikeout in a scoreless top of the ninth.

Kyle Finnegan got the save opportunity in the bottom of the ninth and issued a leadoff walk to Pete Alonso, but Francisco Lindor sent a grounder to a diving Luis García at second, who backhand-rolled it over to Alcides Escobar at second for out No. 1.

Javy Báez stepped in next and hit a grounder up the middle to start an inning-ending 4-3 DP. Ballgame.

Final Score: 2-1 Nationals

Nationals now 55-72