ATLANTA (AP) Stephen Strasburg is pitching like a dominant ace. Unfortunately for him and the Washington Nationals, he won’t get a chance to show it in the postseason.
Strasburg (11-7) closed out his season pitching six strong innings as the Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 3-0 on Thursday night. He struck out seven and scattered six hits.
In his final four starts of the year, Strasburg was 3-0 with a 0.62 ERA and had 44 strikeouts in 29 innings.
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”He’s been really good,” Washington manager Matt Williams said. ”He finished as strong as he could possibly finish.”
Rookie Clint Robinson hit a home run in the second inning and the Nats added two unearned runs in the eighth.
Braves rookie Ryan Weber (0-3) pitched very well on a damp and misty night, giving up five hits while striking out a career-high 10 in seven innings.
Rookie Felipe Rivero retired all six batters he faced in the eighth and ninth innings for his first save. It was the first save opportunity for the Nationals since closer Jonathan Papelbon was suspended for the final week of the season.
”Tonight is an example of what (Rivero) can do,” Williams said. ”He can work through righties and lefties and go multiple innings if necessary. We’ll see what the future holds. He’s stepped forward.”
Strasburg was supposed to be part of a star-studded rotation that would lead the Nationals deep in the playoffs. Injuries to Strasburg and others, plus some personnel moves that didn’t pan out, will keep the Nationals home next week after the season ends this weekend against the Mets.
”Everybody in here is disappointed how the season turned out, but at the same time, it would be huge to go into New York and play our best baseball,” Strasburg said. ”Hopefully we can get them into a little slump heading into the playoffs. That’s all we can do.”
Strasburg battled injuries early in the season, but when healthy in the latter half he regained his form that made him such a hyped prospect coming out of San Diego State.
”I learned a lot about myself in this process,” he said. ”It’s obviously nice to go out with a solid outing. I’m just trying to focus on what I can control.”
Leading 1-0, the Nationals added two unearned runs in the eighth inning against three Braves relievers. The key play was an error by third baseman Adonis Garcia, whose throw on a potential inning-ending double-play sailed into right field and allowed Difo Wilmer to score. Bryce Harper then grounded into a fielder’s choice to drive in Yunel Escobar.
”We took advantage of a miscue and Harp with the hustle to first,” Williams said. ”These guys are continuing to play.”
The Braves’ biggest threat against Strasburg came in the sixth inning when they had two runners on with one out. The right-hander struck out Nick Swisher and Jace Peterson to end the threat and end his season.
Robinson’s ninth home run of the season came with one out in the second inning. He drove a 3-2 pitch into the left-field stands.
Nationals: 3B Escobar was held out of the starting lineup with back spasms. He participated in batting practice and pinch hit in the seventh inning. He drew a walk and scored.
Braves: C Christian Bethancourt left the game with an apparent left hand injury after striking out in the fifth inning. … 3B Hector Olivera sat out with a sore left elbow that was hit by a pitch on Tuesday. Olivera played Wednesday, but the swelling returned. He is day-to-day.
Nationals: Gio Gonzalez (11-8, 3.93) will get the start as the Nationals open its final series of the year at the New York Mets. Gonzalez is 1-0 with a 0.77 ERA in two starts against the Mets this season. He will be opposed by Noah Syndergaard (9-7, 3.34).
Braves: The Braves will host the NL Central champion St. Louis Cardinals for three games to close the season. Julio Teheran (10-8, 4.16) has a chance to hit the 200-inning mark for the second straight season. He has 194 2/3 in 32 starts. He will be opposed by Jamie Garcia (10-5, 2.36).
POWER OUTAGE IN THE ATL
The Braves starting lineup, which featured three rookies, had a combined 36 home runs entering the game. That is five fewer home runs than Harper’s NL-leading 41.
ON SECOND THOUGHT
The Braves successfully challenged a pickoff attempt at first base in the fifth inning. Michael Taylor was ruled out after a review of 1 minute, 11 seconds. The Braves are 23 for 44 on challenges for the season (52.3 percent), which is slightly above the league average of 49.6 percent.