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Washington Nationals battle back from early deficit, but lose 8-5 in series opener with the Atlanta Braves...

The boys kept fighting, and we apologize for asking Davey Martinez about Yadiel Hernández’s mini-slump before the game tonight...

Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Washington’s Nationals battled back from a 5-1 deficit to tie it up at 5-5 with an RBI single by Juan Soto and a three-run blast by Yadiel Hernández in the top of the seventh, but the home team Atlanta Braves battled back in the bottom of the inning, with Eddie Rosario taking a leadoff walk from Nats’ reliever Ryne Harper before Ozzie Albies hit a go-ahead, two-run HR to left field in Truist Park to put the Atlanta Braves up for good in what ended up an 8-5 win.

Espino vs ATL: Paolo Espino faced the Braves four times this season coming out of the bullpen before he got to start against Atlanta last month in Nationals Park.

Espino didn’t fare too well in that outing, giving up eight hits, two walks, and five earned runs in four innings pitched, taking the L in what ended up a 6-5 loss to the Braves.

Last time out on the mound before tonight, Espino went 5 13 innings against the Phillies, giving up four hits, a walk, and two runs in a 7-6 loss in which he received no decision.

“Everything was working well,” Espino said after that outing. “Fastball command was — again I think was the key. Offspeed was okay, I felt that they were good, but not as good as my previous outings, so I think today the key was fastball command.”

Espino struggled with his command early tonight, taking the mound with a 1-0 lead and walking the first batter he faced, Ozzie Albies, who took third one out later on a Freddie Freeman single to center field. Adam Duvall stepped in one out later, and hit a three-run home run into the second deck in left field on a 1-2 curve up in the zone, 3-1 Braves.

The Braves added to their lead in the bottom of the third, with Freddie Freeman hitting a double off Espino with one out, Adam Duvall walking with two out, and Travis d’Arnaud’s double to center bouncing by a sliding Lane Thomas, who couldn’t make the catch, 4-1 when Freeman crossed the plate, but Duvall was thrown out at home trying to score on the play.

Dansby Swanson and Joc Pederson hit back-to-back singles in the first two at-bats of the Braves’ fourth, with Swanson taking third on Pederson’s hit, and a sac fly to center off of Ozzie Albies’ bat added a run to the Braves’ lead, 5-1.

Paolo Espino’s Line: 5.0 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 7 Ks, 1 HR, 92 P, 58 S, 3/2 GO/FO.

Fried vs D.C.: In back-to-back wins over the Nats last month, Braves’ lefty Max Fried gave up a total of 12 hits and three runs, two earned, walking one batter and striking out 12 in a total of 12 IP.

Those two starts were the fourth and fifth for Fried against the Nationals this season, over which the 27-year-old southpaw posted a 4.76 ERA, five walks, 20 Ks, and a .313/.350/.417 line against in 22 23 IP.

In start No. 6 for Fried against the Nationals this season, the left-hander fell behind early, with Alcides Escobar doubling to right with one down, and taking third base (after Juan Soto walked) on a Josh Bell groundout, before scoring on an opposite field, RBI single by Carter Kieboom, who went the other way with a 1-1 curve, 1-0.

It was 3-1 after one, and Fried held the Nationals there through four, with the Braves adding a run in the bottom of the third, 4-1.

It was 5-1 after four, but Juan Soto singled and Josh Bell walked with one out in the top of the fifth. Carter Kieboom grounded into a force at second, then got picked off of first for out No. 3 of a scoreless frame for Fried.

Max Fried’s Line: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 5 Ks, 96 P, 56 S, 9/0 GO/FO.

Sot-lanta: Going into tonight’s series opener in Atlanta’s Truist Park, Nationals’ slugger Juan Soto had a .417/.632/.917 line, two home runs, six RBIs, seven walks, and six runs scored in 6 games in the Braves’ home this season, and Washington’s 22-year-old outfielder was 10 for 32 (.313 AVG; .511 OBP) against the Nats’ NL East rivals this season, “reaching base safely in 24 of 47 plate appearances,” as the club mentioned in their pregame notes.

Soto walked in each of his first two plate appearances of the game, singled the third time up against lefty Max Fried, and singled again off reliever Tyler Matzek in the 7th (2 for 2, 2 BB, R, RBI). Will Smith hit Soto in the top of the ninth.

Bullpen Action: Andres Machado retired the Braves in order in an eight-pitch bottom of the sixth.

Braves’ lefty Tyler Matzek walked Lane Thomas to start the top of the seventh, then Alcides Escobar and Juan Soto hit back-to-back singles off the southpaw, with Thomas scoring on a line drive to right by Soto, 5-2. Matzek got the first two outs on fly balls to center and left by Josh Bell and Carter Kieboom, respectively, but Yadiel Hernández stepped in next and hit a first-pitch fastball up in the zone out to left for an opposite field, game-tying, 3-run shot, 5-5. Hernández’s 8th of 2021.

Luke Jackson replaced Matzek on the mound with two out, and got out No. 3.

Ryne Harper walked Eddie Rosario to start the bottom of the seventh, and Ozzie Albies stepped in next, from the right side for the switch hitter, and sent a 3-2 curve out to left field for a go-ahead, two-run home run, 7-5 Braves.

Alberto Baldonado took over for the Nationals and got three outs, with help from a diving Yadiel Hernández in left for out No. 3.

Luke Jackson returned to the mound in the top of the eighth, and retired the Nationals in order.

Sam Clay gave up a one-out single by Dansby Swanson and two-out RBI single by Ozzie Albies in the bottom of the eighth, 8-5.

Will Smith came on for the save situation and hit Juan Soto in the back with one out then got a game-ending double play out of Josh Bell.

Final Score: 8-5 Braves

Nationals now 57-81