Apr 13, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg (37) throws during the third inning against the Chicago White Sox at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Game 11: Atlanta Braves 3, Washington Nationals 1

If your friends are concerned about the Nats after today’s game, buy them a calendar.

Stephen Strasburg pitched six strong innings but allowed two unearned runs, which were enough for the Braves as Tim Hudson shut the Nationals (7-4) down and Atlanta won, 3-1.

Strasburg (L, 1-2) was somewhat shaky, but managed to limit the damage he allowed. Hudson allowed hits in each of the first two innings, but induced double plays to erase them both. Strasburg hit Jason Heyward in the first and stranded him, and allowed two runners with two outs in the second before Bryce Harper bailed him out. Tim Hudson singled to left, but Harper scooped the ball up and gunned down Dan Uggla as he tried to score. Strasburg was on his way to a 1-2-3 third inning before Ryan Zimmerman made a bad throw in trying to get Justin Upton at first, letting him reach on the error. The next batter, Evan Gattis, hit a two-run homer to put Atlanta on top early.

Meanwhile, Hudson kept cruising, and allowed only one more hit before giving up a Danny Espinosa home run in the fifth that cut the lead in half. He is still below the Mendoza line for the season at .175, but started off slowly and has been better since. Strasburg came out for the top of the sixth, which was a vote of confidence for his durability since he was at 96 pitches. After a scoreless sixth, his final line came to: 6 IP, 2 R, 0 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 7 K, 111 P. On paper it looks good, but he was not at his best today. Hudson stayed in and continued to silence the Nationals’ bats while Strasburg was relieved by Zach Duke, who threw a 1-2-3 inning to drop his ERA from 16.88 to 12.27. Hudson was done after 7 IP, and allowed just one run on four hits while striking out three and walking none. It was a bad day offensively for the Nats, as only three players other than Danny Espinosa got hits, and each had one: Denard Span, Jayson Werth, and Ryan Zimmerman. No Braves pitcher issued a walk, and Atlanta faced only two more batters than the minimum.

Henry Rodriguez also dropped his ERA, from 7.71 to 5.40, with a scoreless eighth, but made it interesting in typical HRod fashion with two walks. Eric O’Flaherty locked the Nats down in the home half of the inning, and Ryan Mattheus gave up an insurance run in the ninth before Craig Kimbrel ended it.

Panic is the instinctual reaction, as the Braves have dominated the past two games while the Nats’ offense and bullpen have faltered. However, panic is also the wrong reaction. There are 151 games left in the year, and 17 against Atlanta. Heck, they swept us in SEPTEMBER last year and we still won the division. Every reliever who has had early trouble is a proven, successful arm, and will turn it around. There is no need for knee-jerk over-reactions.

Next Game: Tomorrow v. Atlanta, 1:35. Maholm (2-0, 0.00) v. Gonzalez (1-0, 0.82)

Tags: Atlanta Braves Stephen Strasburg Washington Nationals

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