Nats do little with nine hits, fall to Braves 5-2 (updated)

ATLANTA - Alex Call raced back to the warning track, found the wall, halted, and leapt upward, kicking up dirt and reaching his glove toward the sky.

He missed.

The ball, hit at a 41-degree launch angle, floated inches above Call’s glove, and Austin Riley’s 37th home run of the season landed in the seats just beyond the left field wall.

Even the Braves’ pop-ups are home runs.

Atlanta (92-55) mashed their National League-leading 221st and 222nd homers of the season in a 5-2 win over Washington (51-96) in the series opener on Monday night. The Nationals, meanwhile, scored just two runs on nine hits, keeping their homer total at a paltry 126.

"Trying to go in there, and I just didn’t get it," Nationals starter Cory Abbott said about Riley's homer. "I was kinda hoping the ballpark would keep it in, but, yeah, I was thinking it was going out."

Like the Braves, the Nats made plenty of hard contact on a warm night at Truist Park. But as has been the case all season, the longball was the difference. Davey Martinez’s squad collected just two extra-base hits. Both were doubles. 

"We tried to stay on the ball," said Martinez. "(Wright has) a good slider. We just wanted to kinda stay in the middle of the field, stay on the ball. We hit the ball well.”

Hours before his 27th birthday, Abbott couldn’t provide the Nats with some much-needed length, going just four innings and allowing four runs on six hits. 

Abbott was undone by a three-run Braves fourth inning, in which the first four batters reached base. After Austin Riley walked, Matt Olson snapped an 0-for-22 streak by doubling down the right field line. Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Harris II then followed with back-to-back RBI singles, pushing Atlanta’s lead to 3-0.

After Harris got to third on a stolen base and a Riley Adams throwing error, William Contreras brought him home with a sac fly. It was 4-0, a seemingly insurmountable lead confronting a Nats offense that had scored more than four runs off Braves pitching just three times in 13 matchups this season. 

“Some bad luck,” Abbott said when asked to evaluate the fourth inning. “Just kinda gotta tip your cap. They’re hitting the ball where we’re not.”

“We couldn’t get out of that inning,” said Martinez. “Other than that, (Abbott) threw the ball well.”

Braves starter Kyle Wright allowed eight hits over six innings, but struck out seven to limit the damage to just two runs.

Both Nationals runs came in the fifth, when Ildemaro Vargas led off the frame with a double that nicked the third base bag. A single by CJ Abrams put Vargas at third, and he scored on a sac fly by Victor Robles two batters later. The Nats were on the board.

Back in the leadoff spot after resting Sunday, Lane Thomas then walked, and Alex Call’s RBI double scored Abrams to cut the Braves’ lead in half, 4-2.

Eddie Rosario provided some unnecessary insurance for the Braves in the seventh, taking Steve Cishek deep to right center field on an 89-mph four-seam fastball, pushing Atlanta’s lead to 5-2. 

Joey Meneses was a bright spot in the Nats lineup, collecting four hits to tie his career high. All four hits were singles. 

"I felt like I was more on-time today than other days," Meneses said, via interpreter Octavio Martinez. "I felt my timing was good and the results were there today."

The Nationals will send Patrick Corbin to the mound Tuesday in hopes of evening the three-game series.

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