Karns hanging in, Werth seeming ready, Espinosa not happy (Karns done)

ATLANTA - Nathan Karns has allowed six hits through his three innings of work thus far this afternoon and he’s been working out of the stretch for the vast majority of his time on the mound.

He’s still managed to allow just three runs through three frames, however, and one of those runs was unearned.

Karns, making just his second big league start, got Andrelton Simmons to shoot a ground ball to third base leading off the bottom of the first, but Ryan Zimmerman’s throw to first was well wide of the bag.

It was a relatively routine play for Zimmerman, but his toss across the diamond forced Adam LaRoche a good 5-6 feet to the center field side of first base, and Simmons reached on the error. That’s Zimmerman’s 10th error of the season, and this one was probably the ugliest of the bunch.

One pitch later, Ramiro Pena crunched a two-run homer to right, and the Braves had a 2-0 lead two batters into their half of the first.

The Nationals countered with two runs in the top of the second when Tyler Moore ripped an RBI single to left and Braves starter Paul Maholm dropped a feed from Freddie Freeman when trying to cover first base. Maholm’s error allowed Ian Desmond to score to knot the game for the time being.

B.J. Upton countered with a solo homer to left off Karns in the bottom of the second, giving the Braves the lead right back, 3-2.

That’s where we stand at this point.

We had an interesting moment in the top of the fourth when Danny Espinosa was drilled by a Maholm pitch. Maholm, you might remember, was the guy who broke Espinosa’s wrist by hitting him with a pitch earlier this season.

Espinosa, none too thrilled with the multiple plunkings from the Braves left-hander, took a long look out at the mound and moved down the first base line incredibly slowly. He wasn’t happy with Maholm, and everyone in the park knew it.

Meanwhile, down on the farm, Jayson Werth has launched a three-run homer during another rehab appearance for high Single-A Potomac.

Werth, who is working back from a right hamstring strain, is now batting .571 with five RBIs during this rehab stint.

The Nats will welcome him back with open arms on Tuesday, assuming Werth doesn’t suffer any complications during the remainder of today’s game.

Update: Karns is out of the game, again barely failing to reach five full frames.

The 25-year-old went 4 2/3 today, allowing four runs (three earned) on seven hits with one walk and six strikeouts. He allowed two home runs and threw 88 pitches, 58 for strikes.

Yet again, Karns didn’t turn in a spectacular effort, but he kept the Nats in it. He left with the Nats trailing 3-2 (Zach Duke relieved Karns and allowed an inherited run to score), and it’s now a 4-3 Braves lead mid-way through the sixth.

Ian Desmond cut Atlanta’s edge to one with a solo shot to left in the sixth, his sixth homer of the season. The Nats had been 0-for-their-last-15 off Maholm prior to that Desmond blast.

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