Braves sloppy late in loss to Nationals

The Braves fell victim to their daytime woes yet again Wednesday, losing a messy 3-2 game to the lowly Nationals to finish their homestand. They went 5-1, sweeping the Phillies and taking the series against the Nationals.

Wednesday’s loss snapped the Braves’ 10-game home win streak, a run in which they outscored opponents 47-16. The pitching staff had a collective 1.50 ERA over that stretch. It was the ninth double-digit home win streak in the franchise’s modern era.

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But the homestand concluded with a dud, a missed opportunity for the Braves in a tight division race. The Braves were up 2-1 before Jesse Chavez gave up a two-run blast to Joey Meneses in the top of the seventh that sucked the air out of Truist Park. In the bottom of the frame, former Braves reliever Carl Edwards escaped when Dansby Swanson struck out and Vaughn Grissom was thrown out at second, adding to the team’s woes.

In the ensuing frame, the Braves had two base runners but hurt themselves with another miscue. When Michael Harris singled, Austin Riley moved from second to third and started toward home – where he would’ve been out – before retreating to third. There apparently was a late change by third-base coach Ron Washington, who was waving Riley home but pivoted late to the stop sign.

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William Contreras was caught in no-man’s land between second and third, resulting in the second out. Eddie Rosario lined out to second to end the frame. The Braves went 1-2-3 against Kyle Finnegan in the ninth.

“Wash was giving me the go the whole time, then right at the last second, he gave me the stop sign,” Riley said. “I think at that point, Contreras was already there. It’s tough. It happens.”

Manager Brian Snitker: “We shot ourselves in the foot too many times on the bases today to win a close game. You can’t make the baserunning mistakes we did and expect to win a close game.”

It was an uncharacteristically sloppy game for the usually sound Braves. They committed two errors and left much to be desired on the bases. They mostly do a sound job avoiding those mistakes, especially against lesser teams, but making several in a contest is how one ends up losing to baseball’s worst club.

Braves righty Bryce Elder, 23, was making a spot start after some rotation maneuvering. Rookie standout Spencer Strider had oblique discomfort, so the Braves inserted Elder to start Wednesday and pushed ace Max Fried to Thursday.

It was Elder’s third consecutive promising major-league outing. In his first start since Aug. 14, Elder allowed one run on four hits across 5 ⅔ innings. He struck out six and walked two.

Over his past three starts, Elder has a 0.99 ERA over 18 ⅔ innings. He has a 22:7 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Those starts came against poor clubs, the Marlins twice and the Nationals, but it’s encouraging that Elder has produced such favorable results, especially looking toward next season when he tries to establish a regular role on the club.

“He was good again,” Snitker said. “It’s done him wonders, just leaving him in Triple-A and getting the reps, making the consistent starts. It shows you this guy can be a piece of this down the road. What he did today was really, really good. He helped us out a lot.”

Grissom helped Elder with a smooth inning-ending play. The Nationals loaded the bases with two outs against Elder in the fifth. Luke Voit hit a grounder up the middle that Grissom snagged just as it was reaching the grass. Grissom spun and fired to Matt Olson at first to end the inning.

The Braves are 12-4 against the Nationals this season, with three more head-to-head contests remaining in Washington next week.

“We took care of the Phillies and took two of three against Washington; you can nitpick as much as you want, but that’s a good homestand,” Riley said. “I think we took care of business.”

The Braves open a four-game series Thursday in Philadelphia. Fried (13-6, 2.52) will start the series opener. The Braves’ recent rotation adjustments should also make Fried available for next weekend’s pivotal series against the Mets at Truist Park.

Nationals 3, Braves 2 (box score)