The last time he took the mound, Stephen Strasburg looked like a
He’ll probably have to be sensational once more for Washington
to have a chance of snapping its skid versus Atlanta.
Strasburg looks to build on his first career shutout and help
the Nationals end their six-game slide against the Braves on
Saturday night at Turner Field.
Justin Upton’s walk-off homer in the 10th inning Friday gave the
Braves (75-47) their 18th win in 20 games, extending their NL East
lead on the Nationals (59-62) to 15 1/2 games.
“There’s a lot of baseball to be played,” said Upton, who leads
the NL with seven home runs in August. “Our lead is pretty big
right now, but crazier things have happened in baseball.”
Upton is just 3 for 15 with five strikeouts against Strasburg
(6-9, 2.83 ERA), who pushed past a bad bullpen session and a
tweaked groin to go the distance for the first time in the majors
on Sunday. He struck out 10, allowing just a walk and four hits in
a 6-0 win over Philadelphia.
“Honestly, I didn’t feel good at all. I didn’t really have good
command in the bullpen,” said Strasburg, who only needed 99
pitches. “When that’s happened in the past, I feel like I would
just try to jam it down their throat and throw it as hard as I can.
I kind of learned that really didn’t get much accomplished.”
Strasburg has a 2.37 ERA in five starts since the All-Star
break, but Sunday’s was his first win.
Efficiency hasn’t led to a drop in strikeouts. After averaging
9.06 strikeouts per nine innings through his first 18 starts in
2013, Strasburg has averaged 10.42 while lasting at least seven
innings in his last five outings.
Strasburg has a 2.14 ERA in four starts against Atlanta this
season, but he’s 0-1. The Nationals have totaled 28 runs while
going 3-11 in the season series.
While the Braves’ Freddie Freeman is 4 for 6 with a homer this
season off Strasburg, Chris Johnson, B.J. Upton and Jason Heyward
are a combined 1 for 24.
Opposing Strasburg will be another talented 25-year-old in Mike
Minor (12-5, 2.87), who’s 4-1 with a 2.23 ERA in his last seven
starts. After allowing five total home runs in his last two June
starts and first outing in July, he has allowed just one since –
going 25 consecutive innings without one heading into Saturday.
Minor’s most recent start was the worst of his impressive
stretch. He gave up four runs and six hits over seven innings
Sunday against Miami in a 9-4 win.
The left-hander has faced the Nationals just once this season,
but walks have generally been an issue in previous meetings. He’s
walked 17 in 37 2-3 career innings versus Atlanta, a far cry from
his 1.83 walks per nine innings rate in 2013 that’s among the NL’s
Minor’s emergence has solidified the front-end of a Braves
rotation that’s missing Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm, but Atlanta’s
situation at second base is becoming dire. The Braves found out
Friday that Tyler Pastornicky would miss the rest of the season
with a torn ACL just days after putting Dan Uggla on the 15-day
disabled list as he has corrective eye surgery.
Paul Janish and Phil Gosselin are the options in the
“I’m almost positive (general manager) Frank (Wren) is out there
looking through the waiver wire,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
Three of the four times Bryce Harper has been hit by a pitch
this season have come against the Braves, including twice Friday.
On August 6, a Harper beaning led to both benches emptying.