Runs aplenty early on in big series opener (Nats lose 4-2)

ATLANTA - In the opener of their big weekend series with the Braves, the Nationals have played some small ball to get on the board. Atlanta, on the other hand, has piled up hits to take the lead.

The Nats scored two runs in the first three innings with the benefit of only three hits, all singles. Rather, it was two walks, two stolen bases (one of them a double-steal) and two productive outs that helped make those two early runs possible.

Back-to-back walks by Trea Turner and Bryce Harper put the Nationals in business in the top of the first, then the duo swiped second and third at the same time to put the pressure on Braves starter Sean Newcomb. Anthony Rendon's sacrifice fly to left brought Turner home with the evening's first run.

Turner Slides Third Gray Sidebar.jpgTurner scored the Nationals' second run, as well, leading off the top of the third with a single and then stealing second. He advanced to third on Harper's ground ball to the right side of the infield, putting him in position to score moments later on Rendon's single to right.

Tanner Roark hasn't been able to hold that lead, though his defense hasn't helped much.

The Braves scored two runs in the bottom of the second on doubles by Nick Markakis and Preston Tucker, plus a slow chopper to short that Newcomb was able to beat out to prevent an inning-ending double play.

Then in the bottom of the third, Turner and Juan Soto let Ozzie Albies' fly ball fall to the ground in shallow left field for a cheap single. Moments later, Freddie Freeman ripped a ball down the first base line, then made it safely to second base when Harper's throw short-hopped Turner and got away, allowing Albies to score the go-ahead run.

Roark was able to pitch his way out of the jam without any more damage, but he's already at 53 pitches through three innings, the Nationals now trailing 3-2.

Update: Despite opportunities to score the tying run, the Nats haven't been able to get it done. They're 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position through six innings. Fortunately, Roark has been able to pitch his way out of some self-made jams. Despite putting the leadoff man on base five times in six innings, the right-hander is through the sixth on 81 pitches, with the Nats still trailing 3-2.

Update II: Things began to unravel in the bottom of the seventh, but the Nats were able to limit the damage to one more run. Albies' RBI double off Roark brought home an insurance run, and then left-hander Tim Collins walked Markakis on four pitches to load the bases. But Wander Suero came up big and got Tyler Glowers looking at a 2-2 cutter at the knees, keeping this a 4-2 game heading to the eighth.

Update III: That'll do it. The Nats simply couldn't do anything offensively after the first three innings, and so they went down quietly and suffered a 4-2 loss. So they and the Braves flip-flop positions in the standings, leaving the Nats 1/2 game out of first place again heading into Friday night's tilt.

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