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Stephen Strasburg nearly equals Max Scherzer, shuts down Braves

April 11, 2018

Max Scherzer allowed no runs on the mound and had a single and stolen base as a hitter on Monday night.

Stephen Strasburg, facing the same Atlanta Braves on Tuesday, also failed to allow a run while getting a base hit as a batter. But Strasburg wasn’t about to try and steal a base like Scherzer.

“I kind of know my strengths,” Strasburg said, with a grin, after he picked up the win in a 4-1 victory over the Braves.

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.

“I don’t know if he wants to one-up (Max). I know he is very competitive, just like Max. He wants to do well,” manager Dave Martinez said of Strasburg. “He was outstanding tonight; all the way around.”

Strasburg gave up three hits, but just one after the second inning, with eight strikeouts and two walks.

“They are a pretty aggressive team,” Strasburg said of the Braves. “So I think you try to make them hit the ball early. Stay aggressive and the statistics are normally going to be in your favor.”

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 as he posted the save.

“It’s fun to watch,” Madson said of the back-to-back outings by the two aces.

The Nationals took a 2-0 lead in the first when Ryan Zimmerman lined a two-out triple that eluded Ender Inciarte, the Gold Glove center fielder for the Braves.

Zimmerman had been hitless in 15 at-bats 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 after batting cleanup to start the season.

“It is definitely better than getting out again,” Zimmerman said of his hit.

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 (two hits) scored from second in the sixth. Strasburg laid down a bunt and Braves pitcher Shane Carle threw the ball away at first and Difo came in to score for a 4-0 lead.

The Nationals improved to 6-5 and have won two straight after dropping five in a row.

“They picked us up,” Martinez said of his two ace pitchers.

Strasburg, now 2-0, made his Major League debut at home June 8, 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.

Martinez said Eaton has a contusion in his ankle and the team is waiting on MRI results. A trip to the disabled list will be up to the team, Eaton said after the game.

Howie Kendrick, who started at second base Monday for the Nationals, did not play Tuesday. Kendrick left the 2-0 win Monday with leg soreness after he drove in both runs in the first.

Wilmer 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 righty Brandon McCarthy (2-0, 3.97).