Nationals try to rebound against Braves (Jul 21, 2018)

July 21, 2018

WASHINGTON -- One night after ruining Stephen Strasburg's return from the disabled list, the Atlanta Braves will look to take the second of their three-game series against the Washington Nationals.

Strasburg, making his first start since June 8 because of shoulder inflammation, lasted just 4 2/3 innings in his return and allowed six runs in Washington's 8-5 loss on Friday night.

His eventful evening didn't end there. After Strasburg walked off, he was seen arguing with ace Max Scherzer in the dugout before the two headed into the clubhouse.

"They sat there and there's two guys that are very competitive, and they got heated up and that was it," said Nationals manager Dave Martinez, who met with the duo after the game. "Tomorrow, they'll be hugging probably and laughing and joking and we'll move on."

Asked about the incident, Strasburg responded: "Part of family, man. You've got to be in the family."

Scherzer was not in the clubhouse during the postgame session after Washington (48-49) suffered its sixth loss in nine games.

Atlanta (53-42) pounded out 12 hits and stole four bases Friday. Moved into the leadoff spot, Ronald Acuna Jr. went 3-for-4 with a walk, three runs scored and two stolen bases.

"He kind of set the table for us all night," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "It was really good. He had some really good at-bats. Kind of a different guy there. Lot of confidence and he's been swinging the bat really well."

Atlanta lost All-Star second baseman Ozzie Albies to a tight right hamstring in the third inning. Snitker said Albies is day to day and will sit out Saturday.

In addition to Strasburg, the Nationals saw the return of Ryan Zimmerman, who missed 57 games with a right oblique strain. He didn't start against right-hander Anibal Sanchez but grounded out as a pinch hitter.

"I think every series from here on out is a big series," Zimmerman said when asked about the series with Atlanta. "We didn't do ourselves any favors with the way we played in the first half. At the same time, we're fortunate to be in the position we're in."

Two struggling starters who have showed improvement of late face off Saturday as Atlanta left-hander Sean Newcomb (8-5, 3.51 ERA) opposes left-hander Gio Gonzalez (6-6, 3.72).

Newcomb hasn't won since June 16 and his ERA has climbed from 2.70. In his first two July starts, he surrendered a combined 10 runs, eight hits and nine walks in 6 1/3 innings. In his most recent start last Saturday, he allowed three runs in 5 2/3 innings of a loss to Arizona.

"Ended (the first half) on a good note in his last start," Snitker said. "Felt good about himself and how he finished so I'm hoping that he'll get a little rest and be ready to go."

Newcomb is 1-1 with a 5.56 ERA in two previous starts this season against the Nationals. Newcomb also had one start against Washington in 2017, picking up a loss while giving up four runs, four hits and four walks in four innings.

Gonzalez hasn't won since May 28 and the Nationals are 3-5 in his starts since.

After bottoming out by allowing six runs in one-plus innings at Tampa Bay on June 25, Gonzalez has improved in July. He gave up two runs in five innings on July 6 and two runs in six innings on July 11 in Pittsburgh. Against the Pirates, he walked only one batter and struck out four.

Against Atlanta on June 2, he gave up three runs in seven innings of a no-decision. During his career, Gonzalez is 5-11 with a 5.04 ERA in 22 starts against the Braves.

Ender Inciarte is hitting .440 (11-for-25) against Gonzalez, Freddie Freeman .313 (15-for-48), and Nick Markakis .204 (10-for-49).



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