Strasburg start pushed back by Nationals
Last year, Stephen Strasburg was shut down by the Nationals during the stretch run and postseason because of an innings limit. The hard-throwing right-hander might not be able to help Washington's playoff push this season, too.
Strasburg couldn't shake forearm tightness while trying to get loose for his start Thursday and, after the Nationals' 5-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night, it was revealed he will be pushed back to Saturday.
''I don't really know why it's happening,'' said Strasburg, who will be replaced by Gio Gonzalez in the rotation. ''When it happens, it happens. It's like a strong cramp. So, I just think it would put us in a bind if I went out there and felt it.''
The Nationals are already in a bind.
They entered Wednesday's game 4 1/2 games behind Cincinnati for the second NL wild card and now have just 10 games remaining. So, winning two of three from the Braves was bittersweet at best.
''That's just not enough,'' Washington manager Davey Johnson said. ''We just can't afford to lose.''
Ross Ohlendorf (4-1) allowed sixth-inning home runs by Justin Upton and Dan Uggla and Atlanta lowered its magic number for clinching the NL East title to two games.
The Nationals had won three straight and 10 of 11.
''It's over,'' Johnson said. ''We've just to start another win streak. It's that simple.''
Denard Span extended his hitting streak to 29 straight, the longest in the majors this season.
Kameron Loe (1-2) got one out for the win. Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta's seventh pitcher, rebounded from his loss Tuesday to record his 48th save.
Ohlendorf, making his second start in place of Strasburg, retired 10 straight to start the game.
As he was being replaced in the fifth inning, Atlanta starter Alex Wood was ejected for shouting and pointing at home plate umpire CB Bucknor. Wood was upset with Bucknor's ball-four call with the bases loaded earlier in the inning.
With Atlanta trailing 2-0 in the sixth, Uggla led off with his 22nd homer. Schafer then bunted and went all the way to third when Ohlendorf's throw to first sailed down the right field line.
Ohlendorf got two outs, but Upton hit the first pitch he saw over the wall in left-center to put Atlanta ahead 3-2. It was Upton's 23rd home run.
The Braves added runs in the seventh, on Brian McCann's RBI double, and in the ninth on Jordan Schafer's RBI single.
The Nationals took the lead in the fifth against Wood. Anthony Rendon singled and Ohlendorf bunted him to second. Span then hit a bouncer to first that Freddie Freeman bobbled for an error, putting runners on first and third.
After Ryan Zimmerman walked to load the bases, Jayson Werth walked on a close 3-2 pitch to force in the game's first run.
Wood slammed his pitching hand into his glove as he came down off the mound and began yelling at Bucknor.
''It doesn't merit that kind of reaction at any time,'' Johnson said. ''So, he was on thin ice at that point.''
Third baseman Chris Johnson attempted to calm Wood, while manager Fredi Gonzalez came out to argue and was ejected by Bucknor.
When play resumed, Bryce Harper hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Span.
Atlanta bench coach Carlos Tosca came out to remove Wood, who shouted and pointed at Bucknor on his way to the dugout.
NOTES: Atlanta OF Jason Heyward (fractured jaw) took simulated at-bats Wednesday, saying it went well. ''It's something to be excited about, but I've got work to do and I'm not going to be satisfied until I'm back,'' he said. ... SS Andrelton Simmons didn't start after playing through neck tightness in Tuesday's doubleheader. Gonzalez said the decision was precautionary, and Simmons entered the game in the seventh. ... Washington LHP Ross Detwiler (back strain), on the DL since July 7, threw a bullpen session Wednesday. He'll throw another this week and then travel to Viera, Fla., to pitch in the Instructional League Monday. Johnson said given the number of games left, it's unlikely Detwiler will pitch for Washington again this season. ... The Braves open a three-game series Friday at the Cubs.