More from Irvin's career night in Atlanta

ATLANTA – The final score wasn’t what they wanted, but the Nationals loved what they saw from Jake Irvin in last night’s 2-0 loss to the Braves.

The 27-year-old did his part by keeping the Nats in the game with six shutout innings and a career-high 10 strikeouts. A dominant performance against one of the more potent offenses in the major leagues, even without the reigning National League MVP, Ronald Acuña Jr.

Irvin’s 10 strikeouts came on a steady mix of four-seam fastballs and curveballs. Two of those punchouts stood out.

In the fifth inning, after erasing a leadoff walk with a double play, Irvin got ahead of No. 7 hitter Jarred Kelenic 0-2. But his next three pitches – all curveballs – were sprayed outside of the strike zone to run the count full. After a fastball was fouled off, Irvin finally got Kelenic to whiff at a perfectly placed curveball in the bottom of the zone.

A big out for Irvin, who actually yelled into his glove in frustration before walking back to the visitor’s dugout.

“Yeah, I wanted to put him away earlier, whether it's with a strikeout or a ball in play,” Irvin said after yet another outing in which he received no run support from the offense. “But I just made a couple of uncompetitive pitches and was a little bit frustrated about it. But nothing crazy.”

Even in just his second season in the majors, Irvin has set high standards for himself. Running the count full after getting ahead 0-2 doesn’t sit well with him, even though he did end up getting the strikeout.

“I'm just trying to get outs early,” he said. “And making uncompetitive pitches like that, it makes the hitters’ job a lot easier. So for me, it's just trying to make their job as hard as possible. And when I give them a leash, it's tough.”

Irvin came back to end his night by striking out Austin Riley on four pitches to end the sixth. And the last three offerings of that at-bat were highly competitive pitches: fastball, curveball, fastball all on the outside part of the plate to the right-handed batter.

“That last pitch he let it all out,” manager Davey Martinez said. “Great job by him. Jake pitched really well.”

What was perhaps more impressive is that Irvin only issued two walks, a point of emphasis coming into the year.

Irvin walked 10 percent of the batters he faced in all plate appearances during his rookie year. He’s got that down to four percent this year. He ranks third in the NL with a 1.57 walks-per-nine-innings rate and is fifth with a 4.91 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His 11 walks are tied for the third fewest in the league, as he has now issued two or fewer walks in all 11 of his starts.

“That's the goal every time, man,” Irvin said. “Attack the zone, make guys earn it and hopefully get deep in the game doing so. So definitely something that I take pride in for sure.”

“He's not the only one,” Martinez said. “We preach all spring, all year: You gotta work ahead. You gotta work ahead with all of these guys. And they've been doing a great job with that.”

Unfortunately for Irvin and the Nats, he wasn’t the only pitcher shoving last night. Although some miscues on the basepaths bailed him out of some jams, Max Fried continued his strong start to the season with eight shutout innings on 103 pitches for the Braves.

Irvin took notice. But he was mainly focused on his own job.

“He was great,” Irvin said. “He's a really good pitcher and he's had a lot of success this year. So it was fun to watch. But truthfully, I'm just pretty locked in on what I'm doing at the time. So in the moment, you don't really think about things like that. But hats off to him. He threw a great game.”

With more performances like this one, Irvin will find himself in more pitchers’ duels throughout his career. Hopefully, he comes out on top more often than not.

Game 54 lineups: Nats at Braves
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