Duke struggles, Davis doesn’t (Nats lose 6-3)

ATLANTA - Zach Duke faced eight batters in relief of Nathan Karns this afternoon.

Here’s how those eight batters fared: RBI single, walk, fielder’s choice, walk, walk, sacrifice bunt, intentional walk, two-run double.

The Nationals trail 6-3 after six innings, after the Braves put up a run in the fifth and two in the sixth to open this game up a bit.

The first run that came around on Duke was charged to Karns, but Duke gets stuck with the other two. His ERA now stands at 8.71 after today’s effort.

Duke walked three batters in the sixth (one intentionally) and then gave up a two-run double to Freddie Freeman, and if Freeman’s blast had carried literally three inches further, he has himself a grand slam. The ball bounced off the yellow line atop the fence at Turner Field and kicked back into play - something that was confirmed upon video review - and only two runs came in on the play.

That was it for Duke, and manager Davey Johnson brought in Erik Davis with one out and two runners in scoring position, giving the rookie quite a tough spot for his major league debut.

Davis handled the situation masterfully, however, getting two quick groundouts from Evan Gattis and Brian McCann to get out of the inning without any further damage.

Quite a nice job by the 26-year-old right-hander, who was called up from Triple-A Syracuse just yesterday.

The Nationals haven’t overcome a deficit of three runs or more to win this entire season. They’ll need to do so today to leave Atlanta with a series victory.

Update: Davis’ debut couldn’t have gone much smoother. And his parents, who flew in to Atlanta yesterday from the San Francisco area, have to be thrilled.

Davis retired all five batters he faced today, striking out two and keeping the Nats within striking distance. He worked in the low-to-mid 90s with his fastball, showed off a really sharp changeup and also threw a tight curveball, which he used to get Reed Johnson looking to end the seventh.

The problem for the Nats is that Davis has been one of the few bright spots today.

The Nats still trail 6-3 mid-way through the eighth, and Washington now has one hit in its last 23 at-bats against Braves pitching.

That won’t cut it.

Update: The Nats managed just one hit after the second inning and fell to the Braves 6-3.

The loss pushes the Nats below .500 for the first time since April 30 and drops them 6 1/2 games behind the Braves in the National League East.

The Nats are now 3-7 against Atlanta this season.

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