Late game mistakes cost Atlanta Braves game against Nationals

After clinching a playoff spot for the fifth straight year, the Atlanta Braves look to continue winning games and try to catch up with or even overtake the Mets.

The Atlanta Braves come into Wednesday’s game in the midst of a fantastic September, which includes a five-game winning streak that has helped them stay a game behind the Mets in the race for the NL East.

After a series sweep against the Phillies earlier this week, the Braves look to sweep their second straight series, this one against the Washington Nationals. On the mound for the Braves on Wednesday was Bryce Elder, who was raised to make his seventh start of the season.

Elder is fighting for a spot on the postseason roster and got off to a great start showing himself, starting the game with 3 strikeouts in the first inning.

The Braves’ offense didn’t hesitate to take the lead in the first inning, thanks to a little help from the Nationals. Ronald Acuña Jr. started the game with a two-strike laser to left field, continuing his great stay at home. Matt Olson came to the plate two outs later and was walked, a good sign for Olson, who has been struggling to get balls out of the zone.

With runners on first and second and two out, William Contreras delivered a batted ball that could pass as a bunt. Despite the weak contact, Contreras showed his athleticism and speed by running down the baseline quickly, forcing Espino to rush his pitch, causing him to throw the ball well over first base into the outfield, scoring Ronald Acuna Jr.

Good teams take advantage of their opponent’s mistakes, and the Braves did just that, entering the second at-bat with a 1-0 lead.

The Braves’ offense continued with another run in the second inning. Robbie Grossman singled to right with 1 out and advanced to second on Vaughn Grissom’s weak groundout. Ronald Acuña Jr. followed up with a pitch from the inside corner into right-center for what should have been a double, but tripped around first base.

After needing just 8 pitches to get through the second inning, Elder had a much more labored third inning, needing 27 pitches to get through the inning. Despite the long inning and having runners on first and third, Elder escaped without a run, keeping the shutout.

The Nats once again threatened first and third, this time with 1 out after a HBP (which should have been called a strike) and a single to center set up the Nats with runners in scoring position. Nationals outfielder Lane Thomas drove in the Nationals’ first run of the game via a sacrifice fly to right field.

The Nationals continued to apply pressure on Elder with a double to the right-field corner, putting runners on third and second base with 2 outs. Former father Luke Voit showed up at this crucial point in the game and would have had a 2-RBI single up the middle if not for a great play by Vaughn Grissom, who was moved to the left of second base.

Bryce Elder was taken out for the sixth after a very long fifth inning and got 2 outs before being taken out. Elder got off to another strong start, pitching 5 2/3 innings, allowing just 4 hits and 1 earned run and striking out 6.

Tyler Matzek was picked to get the final out in the sixth inning, which he did via a pop-out bloop to Dansby Swanson.

Atlanta hit a pair of straight singles Michael Harris II and Eddie Rosario with 2 outs, leaving Robbie Grossman with runners at the corners in the seventh inning. Robbie Grossman failed to deliver, striking out to end the inning.

Matzek was taken out for the seventh inning and faced 2 batters before being retired. He walked the leadoff batter and got the next batter to ground, leaving a runner on first with 1 out for Jesse Chavez. Chavez, who has been super solid for the Braves during his two stints with the Braves in 2022, gave up a 2-run homer to Joey Meneses, giving the Nationals a 3-2 lead, their first lead of the series.

Chavez retired the next two batters, finishing the top of the seventh with the Nationals winning late in the game.

The Braves needed baserunners and they got it on a leadoff single by Vaughn Grissom. Ronald showed up, bringing Dansby to the plate for the Braves at a crucial point. Dansby had a great at-bat, throwing 11 pitches before striking out in the 12th on a 3-2 count. Vaughn was stealing down the field and was ejected after the strikeout, giving the Nationals the unconventional double play to end the inning.

The Braves continued to threaten the Nats’ pitching in the eighth inning. Austin Riley led off with an infield single. Riley moved into scoring position on William Contreras’ 1-out walk, leading Harris to the plate.

Harris delivered a hard-hitting grounder up the middle, doing what the Braves needed from him. Harris’ second hit of the game didn’t score, but instead was a demoralizing hit.

A baserunning error between Contreras and Riley on Harris’ groundout resulted in Contreras being caught between second and third base, leading to the second out of the inning. Rosario followed all this up with a well-hit line drive that was hauled in by the Nationals’ second baseman for the final out of the inning.

After all the mistakes the Braves made on Wednesday, they still had a chance to come back just one run in the bottom of the ninth. Despite strong at-bats from Grissom and Acuña, Nationals closer Kyle Finnegan only needed to face 3 Braves batters to save and prevent a Braves sweep.

Wednesday’s loss really hurt, especially after a great start from Bryce Elder. With the number of games left in the season shrinking and the gap between the Mets and Braves in the division still present, each game becomes more and more important.

Atlanta will travel to Philadelphia for its final series against the Phillies in 2022. Atlanta will need to be as good as it was against Philadelphia earlier this week to maintain a solid foundation in the race for the NL East.

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