Stephen Strasburg shines as Nationals shut down Braves again
It would have been hard to duplicate what Max Scherzer did on the mound Monday night for the Nationals.
He allowed just two hits and struck out 10 with no walks in a shutout against the Atlanta Braves.
But Stephen Strasburg, in his 100th career start at Nationals Park, came close to a gem of his own Tuesday against the previously hot-hitting Braves.
The former No. 1 draft pick allowed a double to the second batter he faced and another hit in the second inning, but he allowed no runs in eight innings and posted a 4-1 victory over the Braves. Strasburg gave up three hits, but just one after the second inning, and had eight strikeouts with two walks.
Strasburg, who retired 12 in a row at one point, and Scherzer have never thrown back-to-back shutouts. Sammy Solis came on in the ninth and got one out in between a double and walk. Veteran reliever Ryan Madson got the last two outs after allowing an RBI double to Dansby Swanson.
The Nationals took a 2-0 lead in the first when Ryan Zimmerman lined a two-out triple that eluded Ender Inciarte, the Braves’ Gold Glove center fielder.
Zimmerman had been retired in his first 13 at bats at home this season and entered the game hitting .097, drawing criticism for his decision to play in just one spring training game. He hit fifth in the lineup on Tuesday after batting cleanup to start the season.
The Braves’ defense also let them down in the fifth, as Wilmer Difo of the Nationals reached on an error and Strasburg drew a two-out walk from starter Mike Foltynewicz.
The next batter, Brian Goodwin, hit a bloop single to center that scored Difo for a 3-0 lead.
Washington once again took advantage of shoddy defense when Difo scored from second in the sixth. Strasburg laid down a bunt and Braves pitcher Shane Carle threw the ball away at first to allow Difo to score for a 4-0 lead.
The Nationals improved to 6-5 and have won two straight after dropping five in a row.
Strasburg, now 2-0, made his Major League debut at home in June 2010 and fanned 14 against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Washington left fielder Adam Eaton was in the original starting lineup. But about 90 minutes before the first pitch, the Nationals announced that Goodwin would start in left. Eaton hurt his ankle on Opening Day on Thursday in a slide into home as he scored a run.
The catching situation
Miguel Montero, who began the season as the backup catcher, came off the paternity list on Tuesday. Catcher Jhonatan Solano went on the 10-day disabled list, retroactive to Saturday, with bone chips in his right elbow.
Solano did not have an at bat with Washington this year, while Montero was hitless in his first 11 at bats.
Matt Wieters, the regular starting catcher, began a rehab assignment on Tuesday with Single-A Advanced Potomac of the Carolina League.
Wieters went on the disabled list April 2 with a mild left oblique strain. He is hitting .143 in two games for the Nationals. The Nationals’ catchers have eight hits in 37 at bats, with Pedro Severino (seven for 19) getting all but one of those hits.
Kendrick out of lineup
Howie Kendrick, who started at second base Monday for the Nationals, was not in the starting lineup Tuesday. Kendrick left Monday’s game with leg soreness after he drove in both runs in the first.
Difo got the start at second for Washington on Tuesday.
The series ends Wednesday at 1:05 p.m. with Washington right-hander A.J. Cole (0-1, 24.55) facing Braves righty Brandon McCarthy (2-0, 3.97).
Cole may be pitching to keep his spot in the starting rotation. The Nationals signed veteran right-hander Jeremy Hellickson near the end of spring training and young right-hander Erick Fedde, who made three starts last year for the Nationals, went five scoreless innings Sunday in his first start for Triple-A Syracuse this year.