Although Stephen Strasburg’s season could be cut short because
of a management-imposed innings limit, the Washington Nationals
staff ace is one of the top contenders for the NL Cy Young
The Atlanta Braves, however, are one of the few team that have
given him problems on multiple occasions.
With the Nationals building their largest division lead in 18
years with a wild victory in the series opener, Strasburg hopes to
push the advantage over the Braves to seven games on Tuesday
As the owner of baseball’s best record, Washington (76-46) has
had plenty of exciting victories, but Monday’s 5-4, 13-inning win
over Atlanta might have been the biggest. Danny Espinosa scored the
winning run from third on a ball bobbled by Braves second baseman
Dan Uggla off the bat of Chad Tracy. Espinosa got to third after
advancing all the way from first on a Kurt Suzuki chopper behind
the mound that third baseman Chipper Jones and shortstop Paul
Janish converged on.
“It was almost like a playoff game,” manager Davey Johnson
said. “They had their chances. We had our chances. It was that kind
The Nationals took a six-game lead over the Braves – the
franchise’s first lead of this length since Montreal concluded the
1994 strike-shortened season six ahead of Atlanta. The Expos’
largest lead that year was seven games one day before the season
The Nationals are 9-4 against the Braves this season, but
Strasburg’s last two starts in the series have both been defeats
for Washington. He had a 7.56 ERA in those outings.
He has been hit hard by several Atlanta players this year, with
Brian McCann going 3 for 8 with a homer and double and Jason
Heyward 5 for 7 with a double. Uggla, likely eager to take the
field after Monday’s fielding gaffe, is batting .533 with two
homers and two doubles in 15 career at-bats against Strasburg
(14-5, 2.91 ERA).
Strasburg, though, comes into this meeting with a 1.50 ERA in
winning his three starts this month. In San Francisco on Wednesday,
he allowed two runs and four hits with seven strikeouts in six
innings of a 6-4 victory.
Strasburg increased his strikeout total to 173 while bumping his
inning count up to 139 1-3. There are rumors that he will be shut
down after reaching either 160 or 180 innings, but the right-hander
has said he hasn’t been told of any limit.
He hasn’t gone more than six in his last four starts, but might
be asked to go a bit longer after the Nationals used seven
relievers to pitch eight innings Monday.
The Braves had five relievers go 6 1-3 innings in the opener,
and have said starters Ben Sheets and Tommy Hanson could move to
the bullpen Tuesday in case Paul Maholm (11-7, 3.39) gets into
That hasn’t happened yet, however.
Maholm gave up a run and five hits in seven innings of
Wednesday’s 6-1 win over San Diego, improving to 2-1 with a 1.57
ERA in three starts since being acquired from the Chicago Cubs on
July 30. The left-hander is 7-1 with a 1.19 ERA in his last eight
starts overall, knocking almost two runs off his ERA from 5.38.
“He’s really figured out how to pitch, he’s really figured out
what type of pitcher he is,” Uggla told the Braves’ official
This will be his first start of the season against the Nationals
after going 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA in two outings against them last
year with Pittsburgh.
Jayson Werth is 4 for 9 with two doubles versus Maholm since
2010, and Ryan Zimmerman is a career .333-hitter against him in 18
Zimmerman is batting .359 with seven RBIs and six walks in his
last 10 games.