Strasburg leads Nationals to win over Braves

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Atlanta Braves came into
Washington hopeful that they would be able to put a dent in the
first-place Nationals’ lead in the NL East. They will leave town after
Wednesday night’s game hoping the deficit isn’t
unmanageable.

Stephen Strasburg struck out 10 and
allowed one run in six innings for his 15th win in one of his final
starts of the season as Washington beat Atlanta 4-1 on Tuesday
night.

The loss puts Atlanta seven games back in the
division.

“It’s not the end of the world. We’ve got
40 games left or whatever it is,” Atlanta starter Paul Maholm
said.

“We’ve got to take care of our business and
come in tomorrow and expect to win. As long as we play well, we win
series from here on out, I think the last couple weeks will be
fun.”

Facing Strasburg wasn’t fun. He gave up just
four hits in six innings, walking one, and he weathered a 51-minute rain
delay. It didn’t faze him.

“I thought he got
better,” Braves catcher Brian McCann said.

“He had
his stuff going tonight. He had all three of his pitches going, his
location was on.”

Washington manager Davey Johnson
thinks the seven-game lead isn’t big enough.

“Eight
would be better,” Johnson said.

He noticed the
Braves’ demeanor.

“After yesterday, they were very
dejected. After today, they were very dejected. They got a pretty good
lead in the wild card, but they don’t want the wild card,” Johnson
said.

“It’s not a comfortable
feeling.”

The Braves, who have lost four straight,
began Tuesday with a three-game lead in the NL wild-card
race.

Maholm, who gave up a three-run home run to
Jesus Flores and a solo shot to Ian Desmond, has been impressed in his
three weeks with Atlanta.

“They’ve gone on huge runs.
They’ll lose a few, then go on a 10-game winning streak,” Maholm
said.

For weeks, the impending shutdown of Strasburg
has been the talk of baseball and though the Nationals haven’t said
exactly what their limit for the star right-hander is, it’s thought to
be between 160 and 180 innings. After this start, his fourth straight
win, when he allowed four hits and walked one, he has thrown 145 1-3
innings.

Talk of his innings limit overshadowed
discussion of the NL East race. The Braves have lost four
straight.

Strasburg struck out Michael Bourn to begin
the game and struck out two in the second. After he struck out Maholm
and Bourn flied to left, the rain came. When the game resumed, Strasburg
(15-5) caught Prado looking to end the third
inning.

Strasburg struck out two more in the fourth,
and in the fifth, fanned Juan Francisco, Paul Janish and Maholm to give
him 10.

It was the fifth time this season Strasburg
had struck out 10 or more. His career high is 14, which came in his
debut on June 8, 2010.

In the sixth, Bourn grounded
out. Prado doubled and Jason Heyward singled. Prado scored on Freddie
Freeman’s sacrifice fly to center. After Heyward was tagged for the
third out trying to advance when a pitch got away from Flores, Johnson
shook Strasburg’s hand when he reached the
dugout.

Drew Storen, Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard
each threw a scoreless inning. Clippard pitched the ninth for his 28th
save in 32 opportunities.

Desmond hit a two-out homer
in the second off Maholm (11-8). It was his 19th of the season — and
second in two nights.

Flores hit a three-run home run
in the fifth for a 4-0 lead.

Maholm threw seven
innings, allowing four runs and seven hits, walking one and striking out
six.

NOTES: Atlanta 3B Chipper
Jones was rested after he told manager Fredi Gonzalez his knees were
sore following Monday’s 13-inning game. … Heyward had three hits. …
Atlanta RHP Kris Medlen (4-1, 2.03) pitches on Wednesday against
Washington LHP Ross Detwiler (7-5, 3.25).