We’re back, and apparently crappy Sunday games are back too. Rookie starter Jared Shuster had the game get away from him before ever recording an out and the Nats rode a decent start from MacKenzie Gore to a 4-1 win to salvage the final game of the season-opening set.
Things went sideways for Shuster right away and, truth be told, he was lucky to make it through the frame. Lane Thomas singled sharply to left, Joey Meneses sharply singled to right, and Jeimer Candelario walked to put the Braves rookie in deep trouble in a flash. Things weren’t looking much better after Dominic Smith singled home the opening run and a couple more scored on consecutive bases-loaded walks. Shuster wasn’t locating at all, he seemed a bit too amped up for the occasion, and the Atlanta bullpen had already begun to stir. And that’s when he suddenly seemed to lock in.
He induced an infield fly, a fly ball to the outfield (which was a sacrifice fly and made it 4-0), and an inning-ending groundout. After that, the kid looked pretty good. He wound up leaving with two outs in the fifth and accumulating a final line of 4.2 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 5 BB, 1 K. But after the initial unpleasantness, he essentially gave up no runs on three hits and two walks, so that’s at least something to build on.
Unfortunately, the early struggles cost the Braves any real chance in this game, as they just couldn’t string anything together against Gore. I would not label the Washington starter as spectacular by any means, as he gave up four walks and three hits over 5.1 innings. But he struck out six and he always seemed to find his way out of any trouble.
The double-play ball was his weapon of choice, as the Braves grounded into three over the game’s first six innings. The killer came in the sixth with the Braves trailing 4-1. They had runners at the corners with only one out and Ozzie Albies at the plate. The inning-ending double play he proceeded to ground into dropped Atlanta’s already-low win probability by a robust 10.9 percent (from 19.1 to 8.2), and they never really threatened after that.
The lone Braves run came in the fourth. Ronald Acuna walked and, though Matt Olson and Austin Riley struck out to follow him, Albies and Travis d’Arnaud strung consecutive singles together to plate Ronald and bring the tying run to the plate. Marcell Ozuna came to the plate as the potential tying run, but he struck out to end the threat.
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