One day after a convincing 16-4 victory against the Washington Nationals, the Braves managed only three hits in a 3-1 loss to their National League East rival.

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The defeat sealed the Braves’ first series loss of the season and spoiled a strong pitching performance that featured an encouraging start from left-hander Max Fried and contributions from the Braves’ bullpen. Third baseman Austin Riley led the Braves’ lineup with two hits and a home run.

Fried, who gave up five runs in an opening-day loss to the Reds, found his rhythm Wednesday afternoon, pitching 5⅓ innings and striking out four with two earned runs.

“First inning, just left some balls over the plate, and they made some good swings, but I felt that I was really able to settle in and get back to pitching and get deeper into the game,” Fried said. “I felt more like myself.”

After surrendering singles to second baseman César Hernández and outfielder Juan Soto and giving up runs to both, Fried settled in and allowed one hit over the next three innings. His defense also helped him out, with Riley saving a pair of base hits in the third inning and the infield retiring six consecutive Nationals batters on ground balls.

Nationals 3, Braves 1 (box score)

Fried’s strong start wasn’t enough to offset the brilliance of the Nationals’ Josiah Gray, another young pitcher aiming for redemption in his second start of the season. Gray tossed five scoreless innings and held the Braves’ offense to one hit, a leadoff single by second baseman Ozzie Albies in the bottom of the first.

The Braves finally started to break through in the middle innings as Gray allowed four base runners, walking three and hitting outfielder Adam Duvall with a pitch. Designated hitter Alex Dickerson advanced to second base on a walk in the bottom of the fifth – the Braves’ first runner in scoring position of the afternoon – but Gray ended the threat by striking out his last batter of the day, catcher Manny Piña.

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The Nationals’ bullpen couldn’t keep the Braves’ offense quiet for long once Gray left the game. Riley opened the Braves’ scoring in the bottom of the sixth, blasting a slider from reliever Kyle Finnegan over the right-field fence for his second home run of the season. But the unit settled down in the seventh and eighth innings as relievers Sean Doolittle and Steve Cishek recorded spotless innings, and closer Tanner Rainey finished off the Braves in the ninth.

Aside from Riley, who added another hit in the ninth inning, the stars of Tuesday night’s 16-run outing fizzled in the finale. Outfielder Marcell Ozuna followed up his two-homer night with an 0-for-4 performance, and Piña didn’t reach base as he played in the spot of catcher Travis d’Arnaud.

“The lineup is fine,” manager Brian Snitker said. “It is deep and is very capable of being really, really good.”

Next up, the Braves will travel to Southern California to take on two NL West opponents, the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers. Right-hander Charlie Morton is set to take the mound in Thursday’s night game against San Diego’s Joe Musgrove.

“It was a fun week, everything that the club did to celebrate last year was really good,” Snitker said. “Honestly, I think guys are ready to just turn the page and play ball.”