August 23, 2014

Washington Nationals Spring Training: Strasburg delivers but Nats fall 7-2 to Atlanta

Stephen Strasburg looked sharp through five innings Monday night before accounting for four runs in the Washington Nationals’ 7-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves at Space Coast Stadium.

Strasburg allowed just one hit – a single by B.J. Upton in the second inning – and a walk before he came on to start the sixth inning. Until that point, both teams remained scoreless as left-hander Paul Maholm also tossed for five impressive innings.

Christian Bethancourt flied out to start the sixth, but Reed Johnson followed with a single to right. Tyler Pastornicky also chopped one to shallow right and Jordan Schafer walked to load the bases. Justin Upton then batted in Johnson and Pastornicky on a single to left to put the Braves up 2-0 before the Nats called upon Zach Duke to relieve Strasburg.

When all was said and done, Strasburg had thrown 53 of 76 pitches for strikes – including some impressive offspeed work.

Nevertheless, after Juan Francisco struck out looking at three pitches from Duke, B.J. Upton singled to left to plate Schafer and Mejia brought home both Uptons on a double, bringing Strasburg’s earned run total to four and giving the Braves a 5-0 lead. Strasburg’s final line also included two walks and five strikeouts – including two to Justin Upton.

The Braves continued to make contact off Duke as Blake DeWitt doubled in Mejia to make it 6-0 Braves by the end of the inning.

The Nats failed to answer at the plate in the bottom of the sixth, but Rafael Soriano came on to pitch another inning of no-hit baseball in the seventh and quieted things a bit until Henry Rodriguez took the mound.

Rodriguez forced Todd Cunningham to ground out and Juan Francisco to fly out to start the eighth with two outs and no one on base, but the third out proved to be a bit of a challenge for the 26-year-old.

Matt Pagnozzi singled on the first pitch he saw and Rodriguez hit Mejia on the next pitch to put runners on first and second before the Nats called upon left-hander Fernando Abad.

On Abad’s very first pitch, DeWitt singled to right to score Pagnozzi and give the Braves a 7-0 lead. Atlanta’s Joey Terdoslavich had no such luck, however, and struck out chasing all three of the pitches Abad tossed him for the third out.

Washington finally notched a run on the board in the bottom of the eighth after Carlos Maldonado walked and advanced to second on a groundout by Steve Lombardozzi. Corey Brown singled to right to push Maldonado to third and Carlos Rivero grounded out to first to plate Maldonado and make it 7-1 into the ninth.

Tyler Clippard tossed five pitches for a 1-2-3 ninth, which featured a strikeout by Schafer.

After Marrero grounded out to first to lead off the bottom of the inning, Tyler Moore homered to left on a 3-2 count to provide a little bit of excitement for those Nats fans who stuck around.

No one on the Nats’ roster enjoyed multiple hits – or an extra-base hit, for that matter – Monday afternoon, but Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond were among those who batted safely to first.

Maholm earned the win for the Braves, allowing just two hits and one walk in five innings pitched.

Winning pitcher – Paul Maholm: 5.0 IP, 2H, 0ER, 1BB, 5K

Losing pitcher – Stephen Strasburg: 5.1 IP, 4H, 4ER, 2BB, 5K

Honorable mention – Tyler Moore: Solo home run in the ninth inning

Next games: Split-squad vs. the New York Mets (at home) & split-squad at Houston Astros, 1:05 p.m. Wednesday

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