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Washington Nationals avoid sweep with 3-0 win over Colorado Rockies: Paolo Espino solid again...

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Paolo Espino tossed 5 2⁄3 scoreless. Juan Soto hit a 454-foot home run. Fun day at the park...

MLB: Colorado Rockies at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Paolo Espino gave up three hits and three walks in 5 23 scoreless innings today, striking out seven of the 22 batters he faced in the series finale with the Colorado Rockies. Espino gave up a two-out single and walk in the sixth, but both runners (and another batter Austin Voth walked) were stranded at the end of the inning, with the Washington Nationals’ 2-0 edge to that point intact, and they went on to win this one, 3-0, avoiding a sweep in the three-game series.

Espino vs the Rockies: Paolo Espino bounced back nicely from a rough start against the Braves (5 IP, 7 H, 5 ER) with a solid outing against the Marlins (6 IP, 6 H, 1 ER) last time out before this afternoon’s turn in the rotation, and he talked afterwards about settling in to shut the Marlins down after giving a up run in his first inning of work.

“I think the first inning was a little — I think I was thinking too much,” Espino explained.

“I was trying too much around the plate. From that second inning on I think [catcher] Keibert [Ruiz] and I, we were pretty much in sync a little quicker and we had a lot better pace throughout the game after that first inning.”

Going up against the Colorado Rockies for the first time in his career, Espino tossed a quick four scoreless frames on 61 pitches, striking out six while giving up just two outs, with a 1-0 lead after one, and a 2-0 lead after three.

Espino returned to the mound in the fifth and gave up one- and two-out walks, his first two of the game, but stranded both runners.

He returned in the top of the sixth, but a two-out walk to Charlie Blackmon, and a single by Trevor Story ended his outing after 5 23 IP...

Paolo Espino’s Line: 5.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 7 Ks, 91 P, 52 S, 4/1 GO/FO.

Gray the Nationals: A first round pick in 2013, 3rd overall, Jon Gray took the mound today (8-10) in 26 starts for the Rockies this season, with a 4.16 ERA, 3.90 FIP, 56 walks, and 140 strikeouts in 136 13 IP, over which he had a .241/.320/.396 line against.

Gray, now 29, was moved up to start the series finale with the Nationals today, after he snapped a six-start winless streak last time out, earning a win over the Braves with a five-inning outing in Atlanta in which he held the home team to two runs on five hits in a 90-pitch effort.

This afternoon in the nation’s capital, Gray fell behind early, giving up a one-out, line drive single by Alcides Escobar (who stole second base), a two-out walk to Josh Bell, and an RBI single to right-center by Yadiel Hernández, 1-0, after what ended up a 23-pitch first.

It was still 1-0 in the Nationals’ favor with two out in the third, but Juan Soto added to that lead with a 454-foot homer to the right of center on an 0-1 slider that went about as far as any we’ve seen hit to where it landed, in the back section of the stands behind the out-of-town scoreboard in Nationals Park. No. 26 for Soto. 2-0 Nats.

Jon Gray’s Line: 4.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 Ks, 1 HR, 70 P, 46 S, 4/3 GO/FO.

Soto Hit That So Far: Juan Soto started the day 19 for 37 (.514 AVG) over his last 11 games, with two doubles, a triple, a home run, five RBIs, 12 walks, a hit by pitch, one stolen base, and nine runs scored over that stretch, in which he’d hit safely in nine of the 11 games, and he kept swinging a hot bat today, homering the second time up for his 26th of 2021 on a 454-foot blast that was gasp-worthy when you saw where it landed...

Bullpen Action: Ashton Goudeau took over for the Rockies in the bottom of the fifth and set the Nationals down in order to keep it a 2-0 game in the home team’s favor.

Austin Voth took over for the Nationals with two on and two out in the top of the sixth, and walked C.J. Cron to load the bases in front of third baseman Ryan McMahon, who worked the count full and sent a fly to left to end the threat and preserve the home team’s 2-0 lead.

Goudeau gave up back-to-back singles by Josh Bell and Yadiel Hernández in the first two at-bats of the Nats’ sixth, but Carter Kieboom grounded into a 6-4-3 DP, and after a HBP on the Nats’ catcher, Keibert Ruiz, a single by Luis García, on a 1-0 fastball, from a new pitcher, Lucas Gilbreath, brought Bell in for a 3-0 lead.

Tanner Rainey came out throwing heat in his return to the majors, and struck out the side in a dominant, 13-pitch frame in the seventh.

Tyler Kinley retired the Nationals in order in the bottom of the seventh.

Mason Thompson got the ball in the top of the eighth, and retired the first two Rockies’ batters he faced before giving up a double to left (that should have been caught) by Charlie Blackmon and a single by Trevor Story that brought the potential tying run to the plate.

Andres Machado took over with C.J. Cron at the plate, and struck him out with an 0-2 slider off the plate outside.

Josh Bell got thrown out trying to take second on a line drive to left in the bottom of the eighth, but nice hustle, big man.

Jordan Sheffield completed a scoreless frame for the Rockies to keep it a 3-0 game.

Kyle Finnegan got the ball in the ninth with a 3-0 lead, and walked the first batter he faced, putting Ryan McMahon on, but he struck Sam Hilliard out with a 2-2 splitter, and got a 6-3 double play to end the game on a grounder to short by Raimel Tapia. Ballgame.

Final Score: 3-0 Nationals

Nationals now 61-88