courtesy of aaron.jorbin
The Washington Nationals scrambled to try and catch up to the first place Atlanta Braves on Monday night but lost a close 3-2 game after a quality start pitched by Stephen Strasburg. It seems like a lot of the same story line seen this season as far as Strasburg is concerned, but the only difference being that the loss went to reliever Tyler Clippard instead of Strasburg this time.
Strasburg threw seven innings and 110 pitches, 71 strikes, and gave up five hits, two runs, and one walk while tallying nine strikeouts.
Despite an early lead, the Nats couldn’t hold onto this one. Shortstop Ian Desmond scored in the first after drawing a one-out walk and hitting second off Braves left-handed starter Mike Minor. He didn’t strikeout nearly as many batters as Strasburg, but Minor’s eleven wins on the season clearly stood for something as he kept the Washington lineup quiet for most of the night, having only given up eight hits and two runs. That combined with a solid Atlanta defense demonstrated why the Braves are first in the National League East and the Nats are left scraping for wins in the dog days of August.
Atlanta tied the game up 1-1 in the third inning with leadoff man and outfielder Jason Heyward scored on first baseman Freddie Freeman’s single, the third consecutive single of the frame. Just two innings later, the Braves would take a one-run lead due to some smart base running from outfielder Justin Upton.
Upton hit a two out single up the middle and proceeded to steal second during Freeman’s at-bat, priming him to score should the opportunity arise, which it did. Freeman tapped in the run on a single to right-center field and Upton score to make it a 2-1 ballgame.
The thing about the 2013 Nats, though, is that it never appears that they’re completely out of a fight until the very end. Which could be construed as commendable but being commendable doesn’t win ballgames.
They made another run for it in the sixth inning when third baseman Ryan Zimmerman scored off a two-out sacrifice single lined to left field hit by second baseman Anthony Rendon off Minor; Atlanta 2, Washington 2.
Strasburg went on to retire all three batters his faced in the bottom of the seventh inning prompting Manager Davey Johnson to pull him due to the ninth batting hole coming up in the bottom of the frame – enter Clippard.
Clippard issued a leadoff solo homerun down the left-field line on a 3-2 pitch to give Atlanta a 3-2 lead over Washington. He finished off the inning but the damage was done and newly instated right-handed reliever Ryan Mattheus.
The Nats had a chance in the ninth when Rendon singled off right-handed reliever Jordan Walden. Rendon advanced to second on a sac single turned bunt by outfielder Denard Span and then reached third base on during outfielder Scott Hairston’s at-bat when a wild pitch got past catcher Brian McCann, but pinch hitter Chad Tracy couldn’t light it up after coming off the bench; Nats lose 3-2.