In a game where runs were hard to come by, the Nationals turned to their old standbys — pitching and defense — in Saturday’s 2-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves.
The Nationals snapped a three-game losing streak with their fourth consecutive victory over the Braves and remained perfect against Atlanta on the season. They also held on to first place in the National League East, maintaining a one-game lead over Miami and the New York Mets, who both won Saturday.
Michael Morse had an uneventful game in his first outing if the season, going 0-for -4. Morse had been on the disabled list since spring training with a strained muscle in his right shoulder that made him unable to throw,
Strasburg (6-1) was hot from the start, striking out the first four batters he faced. He allowed four hits and did not walk a batter, lowering his ERA to 2.35. When he did get in trouble, the defense helped him out by turning a pair of 6-4-3 double plays. Ryan Zimmerman also made a nice running grab and flip to first on a Michael Bourn bunt for the second out of the sixth inning.
Beachy (5-4) was nearly as impressive early in the game, holding the Nats hitless until the bottom of the fourth, when Ian Desmond scratched out an infield hit. He allowed just three hits and both Nationals runs in 6 2-3 innings and struck out six. But the patient Nats hitters wore him down with four walks, especially Bryce Harper, who worked a pair of walks on 19 pitches in his fist two at-bats.
Flores broke the scoreless tie in the fifth, crushing a 1-2 fastball from Beachy into the Atlanta bullpen for his second homer of the season. The Nats added an insurance run in the seventh when pinch-hitter Xavier Nady singles off Jonny Venters, scoring Danny Espinosa, who had walked to force Beachy from the game.
Sean Burnett pitched out of a two-out, two-on jam in the eighth by getting Bourn to foul out to left field. Tyler Clippard worked a perfect ninth, striking out the last two batters, for his fourth save.
Champ of the Game: Strasburg. After three starts, he was back on his game, mowing down Atlanta hitters from start to finish with an efficient 90 pitches.
For Atlanta, it was Beachy, who was almost as good as Strasburg, but made the mistake of challenging Flores with an outside fastball, a zone where Flores is hitting 1.000 for the season.
Chump of the Game: Not an easy choice in this game, since the pitching was generally outstanding. Morse and Harper both left runners in scoring position.
For the Braves, Martin Prado, who was the most effective hitter against the Nats in Atlanta, was o-for-4 and left two men on base.