After the Nationals struggled Friday afternoon running the bases, they struggled Saturday night in the field. The visiting Atlanta Braves scored three unearned runs off of two errant throws and beat the Nats 6-2.
SP Stephen Strasburg (0-1) pitched well early with a sharp curve and mid 90’s heat. Strasburg’s fastball velocity was cause for some concern after his opening day start against the New York Mets, but he looked to be shaping back into form until the fourth. Strasburg used his fastball less and relied instead on his breaking ball. Unfortunately, it was in the fourth he began to struggle and finished after 4 1/3 innings, allowing eight hits, three walks, six runs (three earned) while striking out six.
Braves SP Julio Teheran (1-1) pitched seven strong innings with a mixture of a low 90s fastball and off speed pitches that kept the Nats off-balance throughout the night. Teheran finished the night giving up two earned runs through seven innings, allowing three hits with four walks and six strike outs. 1B Adam LaRoche accounted for the only two runs, blasting an upper deck home run to right field in the first. The two RBIs brings LaRoche’s season total to eight, leading the club and tying him for fourth in the NL.
The Braves scored their first two runs in the fourth inning, aided by 3B Ryan Zimmerman’s second error of the season, an errant throw over LaRoche’s outstretched glove. The error is Zimmerman’s second of the season, the first also a wild throw, and illustrates his increasing difficulty in making routine throws across the diamond.
Zimmerman was pulled from the game in the sixth with Anthony Rendon moving over from second. After the game, Nationals manager Matt Williams said that Zimmerman felt shoulder soreness and would be scheduled for an MRI on Sunday.
The Braves broke the game open in the fifth as they scored four more runs and drove Strasburg from the game after one out.
Throughout the night, the Braves peppered the field with singles, accounting for ten of their thirteen hits, and three doubles. 1B Freddie Freeman proved to be the toughest out, going 2-2 with three walks.
Harper’s early season struggles continued as he went 0-4 with two strikeouts. In the postgame press conference Williams said he “would take a serious look” at giving Harper a day off for Sunday. “When that frustration rears its head, it’s often times good to give a day,” Williams said.
LaRoche finished the night 2-2 with two walks. 2B Anthony Rendon advanced his hitting streak to five games to start the season. Strasburg’s career record against the Braves is now 3-5, allowing 63 hits and striking out 77 in 63 innings. As noted on MASN, the Nats are now 6-15 in their last 21 games against the Braves.
The Nats fell to 3-2 and into a 3rd place tie with the Philadelphia Phillies while the Braves moved into 2nd place in the NL East, ½ game behind the 5-1 Miami Marlins.