Braves beat Nats, end losing streak
No matter how much he insisted he felt fine, Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg didn’t look right to manager Davey Johnson from the time his first pitch sailed to the backstop.
As a result, there are new concerns about Strasburg’s health after he was examined by a doctor following Washington’s 3-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Monday night.
”I think he’s got a little tightness in his forearm,” Johnson said. ”So they’re going to put him on some medication.”
Johnson said the hard-throwing righty will have to show he is ready to make his next scheduled start.
”It’s too early,” Johnson said when asked about Strasburg’s status. ”I’m sure he’s going to be examined every way you can look at him.”
Strasburg insisted he won’t miss a start.
”I’m not missing my next start,” he said. ”I’ll tell you that right now.”
Strasburg had lost a career-worst four straight starts before pitching six innings and getting a no-decision. He is 1-4 with a 3.13 ERA.
Strasburg appeared to struggle to get comfortable on the mound, sometimes shaking his arm after a pitch.
Johnson said Strasburg ”doesn’t look right to me.” Strasburg gave up two runs and six hits, walking four and striking out eight.
”His command was way off, so I knew something was off,” Johnson said.
Atlanta beat the Nationals for the eighth straight time dating to last season. The Braves swept three games at Washington earlier this month.
The loss hurt, but Johnson’s mind was on Strasburg’s health.
”He was shaking his elbow more frequently,” Johnson said, adding Strasburg didn’t complain ”but he was irritable.”
”I was really concerned,” Johnson said. ”Any other time, I might have let him continue. Hopefully, it’s no more than a tired arm or something.”
Strasburg insisted he ”felt good” physically but struggled with his control.
”I couldn’t throw strikes early on,” Strasburg said. ”I was able to kind of battle through it and keep it close.”
Asked why he was shaking his arm, he said, ”You just try to stay loose.”
Andrelton Simmons hit a tiebreaking sacrifice fly in the seventh inning, then made an eye-popping play to start the ninth as Atlanta ended its four-game losing streak.
Ian Desmond off the ninth with a slow grounder that Simmons charged. The Atlanta shortstop slipped as he fielded the ball and fell on his backside, but somehow fired a strike from the seat of his pants that first baseman Freddie Freeman caught by making a long stretch.
”That’s the first time I’ve ever seen two guys do a split on the same play at the same time,” said Braves closer Craig Kimbrel.
Desmond was called out on a close play, and disagreed with the decision. Johnson came out to argue with umpire Tim Timmons.
Atlanta’s Julio Teheran allowed 10 hits and two runs in 5 1-3 innings.
Gerald Laird led off the Braves’ seventh with a walk from Tyler Clippard (1-1). Laird moved up on pinch-hitter Tyler Pastonicky’s sacrifice bunt and was held at third on Jordan Schafer’s single.
Simmons’ fly ball to right allowed Laird to slide safely headfirst across the plate.
Jordan Walden (1-0) struck out three in 1 2-3 hitless innings.
Eric O’Flaherty struck out two in a perfect eighth and Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his ninth save.
Strasburg walked Schafer to start the first, and he stole second and scored on Justin Upton’s soft single.
Freeman followed Upton’s hit with a single to left field, but took a wide turn around first and was thrown out. Gonzalez argued the call with Timmons at first base, and replays indicated Freeman’s hand was on the bag before he was tagged.
Former Braves star Chipper Jones visited his former teammate and hunting buddy Adam LaRoche, now the Nationals’ first baseman, before the game. Jones, who has said he has possible interest in becoming a hitting coach, watched video with LaRoche of the slumping left-handed hitter’s swing.
The video review with Jones must have helped as LaRoche led off the second inning with a single to snap his 0-for-26 drought. LaRoche’s hit started a string of four straight singles, including run-scoring hits by Chad Tracy and Kurt Suzuki, to give Washington a 2-1 lead.
Freeman walked to lead off the fourth, and singles by Dan Uggla and Laird made it 2-all.
Washington’s Jayson Werth crumpled to the ground after fouling a ball off his left foot in the eighth. He completed his at-bat – a strikeout – and was replaced in right field by Roger Bernadina in the bottom of the inning.
NOTES: Washington C Wilson Ramos was activated from the 15-day DL but did not play as Johnson said he wanted to be careful not to push the strained left hamstring. C Jhonatan Solano was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse. … Schafer stole two bases. … The series continues Tuesday night when Braves RHP Tim Hudson goes for his 200th career win, facing Washington LHP Gio Gonzalez.