Strasburg leads Nationals to win over Braves

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Atlanta Braves came into

Washington hopeful that they would be able to put a dent in the

first-place Nationals’ lead in the NL East. They will leave town after

Wednesday night’s game hoping the deficit isn’t

unmanageable.

Stephen Strasburg struck out 10 and

allowed one run in six innings for his 15th win in one of his final

starts of the season as Washington beat Atlanta 4-1 on Tuesday

night.

The loss puts Atlanta seven games back in the

division.

“It’s not the end of the world. We’ve got

40 games left or whatever it is,” Atlanta starter Paul Maholm

said.

“We’ve got to take care of our business and

come in tomorrow and expect to win. As long as we play well, we win

series from here on out, I think the last couple weeks will be

fun.”

Facing Strasburg wasn’t fun. He gave up just

four hits in six innings, walking one, and he weathered a 51-minute rain

delay. It didn’t faze him.

“I thought he got

better,” Braves catcher Brian McCann said.

“He had

his stuff going tonight. He had all three of his pitches going, his

location was on.”

Washington manager Davey Johnson

thinks the seven-game lead isn’t big enough.

“Eight

would be better,” Johnson said.

He noticed the

Braves’ demeanor.

“After yesterday, they were very

dejected. After today, they were very dejected. They got a pretty good

lead in the wild card, but they don’t want the wild card,” Johnson

said.

“It’s not a comfortable

feeling.”

The Braves, who have lost four straight,

began Tuesday with a three-game lead in the NL wild-card

race.

Maholm, who gave up a three-run home run to

Jesus Flores and a solo shot to Ian Desmond, has been impressed in his

three weeks with Atlanta.

“They’ve gone on huge runs.

They’ll lose a few, then go on a 10-game winning streak,” Maholm

said.

For weeks, the impending shutdown of Strasburg

has been the talk of baseball and though the Nationals haven’t said

exactly what their limit for the star right-hander is, it’s thought to

be between 160 and 180 innings. After this start, his fourth straight

win, when he allowed four hits and walked one, he has thrown 145 1-3

innings.

Talk of his innings limit overshadowed

discussion of the NL East race. The Braves have lost four

straight.

Strasburg struck out Michael Bourn to begin

the game and struck out two in the second. After he struck out Maholm

and Bourn flied to left, the rain came. When the game resumed, Strasburg

(15-5) caught Prado looking to end the third

inning.

Strasburg struck out two more in the fourth,

and in the fifth, fanned Juan Francisco, Paul Janish and Maholm to give

him 10.

It was the fifth time this season Strasburg

had struck out 10 or more. His career high is 14, which came in his

debut on June 8, 2010.

In the sixth, Bourn grounded

out. Prado doubled and Jason Heyward singled. Prado scored on Freddie

Freeman’s sacrifice fly to center. After Heyward was tagged for the

third out trying to advance when a pitch got away from Flores, Johnson

shook Strasburg’s hand when he reached the

dugout.

Drew Storen, Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard

each threw a scoreless inning. Clippard pitched the ninth for his 28th

save in 32 opportunities.

Desmond hit a two-out homer

in the second off Maholm (11-8). It was his 19th of the season — and

second in two nights.

Flores hit a three-run home run

in the fifth for a 4-0 lead.

Maholm threw seven

innings, allowing four runs and seven hits, walking one and striking out

six.

NOTES: Atlanta 3B Chipper

Jones was rested after he told manager Fredi Gonzalez his knees were

sore following Monday’s 13-inning game. … Heyward had three hits. …

Atlanta RHP Kris Medlen (4-1, 2.03) pitches on Wednesday against

Washington LHP Ross Detwiler (7-5, 3.25).