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Nationals beat Braves 2-1 to deal Chris Sale his 1st loss since April 13

WASHINGTON (AP) — Jake Irvin pitched six shutout innings and the Washington Nationals dealt Atlanta ace Chris Sale his first loss in nearly two months on Friday night with a 2-1 victory over the Braves.

Washington snapped a four-game losing streak and won for only the second time in eight games since taking three of four at Atlanta late last month.

Sale (8-2) allowed two runs in seven innings in his first loss since April 13. The left-hander had won seven consecutive starts before giving up eight runs to Oakland in his previous outing on June 1.

The Braves were 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position and fell eight games behind first-place Philadelphia in the NL East, matching their largest deficit in the standings this season.

“I still believe that it’s going to happen, at some point in time we’re going to get this thing rolling,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s the hardest thing in the game to do in baseball. ‘You look like you’re flat.’ No, you’re not. You’re just not hitting. These guys are playing good defense. They’re hustling. They’re doing everything they can to win the game. We’re just not getting big hits.”

Irvin (4-5) loaded the bases in the third inning before ending the threat, then prevented Orlando Arcia from scoring after he doubled to lead off the fifth. But his trickiest inning was the sixth, when Austin Riley singled and moved to third on Marcell Ozuna’s double.

Irvin induced Matt Olson’s foul out, then got Ozzie Albies to ground back to the mound before Adam Duvall’s flyout ended the threat.

“You lock in just a little bit more,” said Irvin, who has a 1.48 ERA over his last four starts. “That’s one of those situations where you can give in and ruin a quality outing. It’s just about competing. Making sure that I do everything I can to keep us ahead in that ballgame. You just have to be a little more precise.”

The right-hander allowed four hits and two walks while striking out four.

“He pumped strikes and he made good pitches when he had to,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said.

Kyle Finnegan handled the ninth for his 17th save in 19 opportunities.

Sale retired the first nine batters he faced before CJ Abrams doubled to left to lead off the fourth. Nick Senzel walked two batters later and the Nationals executed a double steal — with catcher Sean Murphy’s errant throw to second allowing Abrams to score. Senzel scored on Ildemaro Vargas’ two-out single.

Sale yielded five hits and matched a season high with 10 strikeouts.

“Chris was great,” Snitker said. “His stat line is really good. He pitched really well. It’s just a shame we couldn’t get him any runs.”

Atlanta scored in the eighth when Jacob Young lost track of Ozuna’s two-out flyball to center. Ozuna scored on Olson’s single.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Braves: OF Jarred Kelenic (wrist) was out of the lineup for the second consecutive day but was available off the bench, manager Brian Snitker said.

Nationals: RHP Josiah Gray (forearm flexor strain) will make a rehabilitation start Sunday at Class-A Fredericksburg. … RHP Cade Cavalli (Tommy John surgery) will continue his rehab with a bullpen session after making two minor-league starts last month.

UP NEXT

The four-game series continues Saturday as Atlanta RHP Charlie Morton (3-2, 3.88 ERA) faces Washington LHP MacKenzie Gore (4-5, 3.57).

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