Stephen Strasburg (6-1) completed his first seven-inning shutout performance to help lead the Washington Nationals (30-21) to a 2-0 victory against the Atlanta Braves (28-25).
Entering the fourth matchup of the season between these two National League East rivals, Strasburg was not just facing the only team to beat him twice in his 28 career starts, but also one of toughest batters he has ever encountered, second baseman Dan Uggla. In his last outing against Atlanta, Strasburg allowed four runs, walked four Braves, gave up a game-tying, two-run home run to Uggla, and continued a three-game streak of not making it out of the fifth inning. The blazing Atlanta heat appeared to cause control problems for the Nationals’ ace on May 26, but Strasburg was calmer than usual after a six-day rest on Saturday.
In seven masterful innings, Strasburg mixed his off-speed pitches with his fastballs, which topped at 99 mph. Despite scoring 10 runs in their last game against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Braves seemed to be one step behind all Saturday afternoon and struggled mightily to create any offense, especially Uggla.
In his career against Strasburg, Uggla went 6 for 8, blasted two home runs, hit a double, and drew two walks. However, in three plate appearances against Strasburg on Saturday, Uggla struck out twice on a curveball and a change-up and grounded into a 6-4-3 double play orchestrated by Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa. Before recording his final out, Strasburg gave up four hits, struck out nine batters, and only allowed two Braves into scoring position after throwing only 90 pitches before being relieved by Sean Burnett.
The Braves also received a good pitching performance from starter Brandon Beachy (5-4) who only allowed three hits, struck out six batters, and gave up one walk in 6 1/3 innings. Beachy’s only mistake was made during the fifth inning when he left a fastball up in the strike zone to Nationals catcher Jesus Flores. Flores hit the ball to left centerfield for a home run to give Washington a 1-0 lead. Atlanta manger Fredi González pulled Beachy in the seventh inning for reliever Chad Durbin after walking Espinosa, who would later score the final run of the game on a double hit by Xavier Nady.
The Braves starting pitching staff has continually proven to be the team’s weakest link. Beachy joined Tim Hudson as the only two starters on Atlanta’s staff to have finished at least six innings in the last seven games. However, like Beachy, Hudson lost to the Nationals on May 25 after allowing seven earned runs in 6 2/3 innings. The Braves starting pitching ranks 22nd in the entire league in team ERA (4.24) and 27th in quality starts (20).
The only consolation for Atlanta after today’s game is the major league debut of their organization’s 2011 minor league player of the year, shortstop Andrelton Simmons. The Braves purchased the 22-year-old Curacao native’s contract from Double-A Mississippi on Thursday, and replaced Tyler Pastornicky who was struggling on defense and only hit .248 with a home run and 12 RBIs in 42 games. Simmons went 0-3 and grounded into a double play, but he made several tough defensive plays.
Atlanta will face Washington’s Gio Gonzalez (7-1) on Sunday to close its two-game series before taking on a tough 12-game stretch in their schedule. On Tuesday, the Braves will begin a three-game series against the Miami Marlins before heading home to play nine games at Turner Field against Toronto, Baltimore, and the New York Yankees.
About the Author
Written by Jourdan Shepard
New York born. New Jersey bred. Earned my degree on a Georgia clay hill. "Rooting for my rival is like wanting the house to win in blackjack...."