WASHINGTON (AP) Keibert Ruiz homered as part of a seven-run fourth inning and the Washington Nationals defeated the Atlanta Braves 8-5 on Sunday, spoiling the major league debut of Hurston Waldrep.

CJ Abrams drove in three runs for Washington, which won the last three of four from Atlanta and improved to 6-2 this season against the Braves.

“This group is fun, they play with a lot of energy and it showed in this last series,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “Seventeen games in a row without a day off, they’re going out and battling and grinding. These last few games were amazing.”

Atlanta has dropped four of five and at 35-28 is nine games behind Philadelphia in the NL East. It is the first time the Braves are as few as seven games over .500 since being 12-5 on April 17.

Waldrep, the Braves’ first-round pick in the 2023 draft who was called up from Triple-A Gwinnett earlier Sunday, was undeterred by a 35-minute weather delay at the start. The 22-year-old right-hander breezed through three innings without allowing a hit. He is the fourth member of last year’s draft class to reach the majors and the second pitcher - along with Pittsburgh’s Paul Skenes - to do so.

He was on the verge of escaping a two-on, one-out jam before Luis García Jr. poked an RBI single to left. Ruiz then smacked a first-pitch fastball for a three-run homer into the Nationals’ bullpen, where reliever Jacob Barnes caught it between warmup pitches.

“I feel a lot better at home plate than when I came back (from) the flu (in late April),” said Ruiz, who added a sacrifice fly in the fifth and is hitting .291 over his last 16 games, raising his average from .157 to .202. “I feel like I’m hitting the ball better.”

Waldrep (0-1) sandwiched two walks around a single to load the bases before ending his outing. Abrams hit reliever Aaron Bummer’s first pitch into the right-field corner, scoring three runs and making it 7-2.

Waldrep surrendered seven runs in 3 2/3 innings.

“It started out really good and baseball happened,” Waldrep said. “I got some unlucky breaks and also gave up some hits I didn’t need to give up and missed some pitches, walked some guys. It is what it is. It’s part of the game.”

The seven runs scored were the most in an inning for Washington since it had eight in the sixth inning at Kansas City on May 26, 2023.

Barnes (3-2) pitched a scoreless inning to earn the victory. Kyle Finnegan recorded the final three outs for his 18th save in 20 attempts after Jarred Kelenic’s three-run homer off Jordan Weems in the ninth pulled the Braves within three.

Atlanta’s Michael Harris II opened the scoring with an RBI single in the second before Washington starter DJ Herz’s struggled with is command. Orlando Arcia walked on four pitches, and Herz’s first pitch to Kelenic was up and in, but grazed Kelenic’s bat. Kelenic took exception when Herz buzzed his head later in the at-bat. Herz’s next throw was his second wild pitch of the inning, allowing Travis d’Arnaud to score.

Herz allowed two runs in 4 1/3 innings in his second major league start.


Braves: Atlanta optioned RHP Daysbel Hernández to Gwinnett and transferred OF Ronald Acuña Jr. (torn ACL) to the 60-day injured list to make room for Waldrep.

Nationals: RHP Josiah Gray (forearm flexor strain) allowed three runs in three innings Sunday for Class-A Fredericksburg. Gray struck out two and walked one in the outing, his first since he was placed on the injured list April 9.


Braves: Atlanta is off Monday. LHP Max Fried (6-2, 2.93 ERA) will start the first of a three-game series Tuesday at Baltimore.

Nationals: Washington is also off Monday. The Nationals will start LHP Mitchell Parker (4-3, 3.47) when they begin a three-game series Tuesday at Detroit.


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