Shuster’s debut, Murphy’s cannon: Five observations from Braves’ loss to Nationals

WASHINGTON – Moments after taking a big-league mound for the first time, Jared Shuster received a harsh greeting.

The Nationals scored four runs in the first inning and defeated the Braves, 4-1, on Sunday at Nationals Park. The Braves (2-1) missed a chance for the sweep.

Shuster hoped the first inning would go better than it did.

Then again, it didn’t matter because his offense couldn’t muster much.

Onto St. Louis.

Here are five observations from the Braves’ loss:

1. Shuster’s debut began like this: Single, single, walk, single, walk, walk.

Nerves?

“They were definitely there, but overall, felt good out there,” Shuster said. “Just got to make some better pitches.”

The Nationals scored four runs in that first inning. They only needed those because Atlanta’s offense couldn’t overcome the deficit.

During the first inning – and after it – Shuster fought. He denied the Nationals any more runs.

“It’s not the start we wanted, it’s not what we pictured,” catcher Sean Murphy said. “But he showed a lot of guts.”

Over 4 2/3 innings, Shuster allowed four runs on six hits. He walked five batters and struck out one.

But he never gave in at any point.

“Just always going to try to battle out there and try to give the team a chance to win,” he said.

That brings us to the next point.

2. Braves manager Brian Snitker said Shuster might’ve been a hitter away from being pulled in the first inning.

Shuster then pitched into the fifth. This was a positive.

“I told him when he came out, ‘You can breathe now,’” Snitker said. “It was good to see how he came in and competed. I’m sure it wasn’t how he had it drawn up when he made his debut, but to his credit, he got us into the fifth, which was really big in the scheme of things.”

It saved the bullpen. It also gave the Braves a chance to mount a comeback. Shuster could’ve let the Nationals blow open the game even more.

Instead, he held them to four runs.

“Definitely a positive way to go out and show I can move on to the next pitch and leave whatever happens behind me,” Shuster said.

The final line for Braves starter Jared Shuster - 4 2/3 innings, six hits, four runs, five walks and one strikeout.

Credit: AP photo/Alex Brandon

icon to expand image

Credit: AP photo/Alex Brandon

3. What did Nationals lefty MacKenzie Gore do so well to prevent the Braves from collecting the big hits that might swing the game?

“I mean, I don’t know,” Michael Harris II said. “I guess he works to both sides of the plate. Honestly, I don’t really know.”

Snitker gave the best description of Gore’s performance for those of us who didn’t know how to put it.

“He was kind of effectively wild, I would probably say,” Snitker said.

This is not the Braves taking anything away from Gore. After all, the former No. 3 overall pick held them to one run on three hits over 5 1/3 innings. He struck out six Braves.

He walked four, though. Of Gore’s 93 pitches, only 56 were strikes.

In the fourth inning, the Braves scored their only run – but could’ve plated more. Travis d’Arnaud singled to score Ronald Acuña Jr., but Marcell Ozuna struck out swinging with two men on base to end the inning.

Gore also induced two double plays. Overall, the Braves hit into three double plays, and two of them – one in the fifth, the other in the sixth – ended innings.

“He’s got a good arm – a really good arm,” Snitker said of Gore. “We hadn’t seen a lot of him. His stuff’s good, it’s really good. He’s a good looking young pitcher.”

4. In the fourth inning, Sean Murphy gunned down a runner attempting to steal second with a 85 mph dart.

Murphy’s pop time to second base – 1.86 seconds, according to Statcast – was the second-best pop time to second recorded through the season’s first three days. (Pop time is the time from the moment a pitch hits the catcher’s glove to the moment the ball reaches the infielder’s projected receiving point.)

“That was something else,” Snitker said.”That’s one of the reasons why we wanted to get him.”

5. Now, a real treat for baseball fans: The Braves and Cardinals, two National League powers, will go head to head at Busch Stadium on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

For the most part, the Braves looked great this weekend – versus the Nationals.

The Cardinals are a much bigger test.

“It’s a really, really strong lineup,” Snitker said. “That’s a really good team. You look at that lineup, the offensive power they have, it’s really good.”

Stat to know

3 - With Shuster’s debut, three of the Braves’ four picks from the 2020 MLB Draft have made it to the majors. No other team in baseball has had even two of its picks from that draft appear in the big leagues.

Quotable

“He took their best punch and he came back.”-Murphy on Shuster

Up next

On Monday, Charlie Morton will make his regular-season debut against righty Jake Woodford, who will start for the Cardinals. First pitch is at 7:45 p.m. ET.

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