Nationals Lose Again, Get Shut Out By The Braves 5-0

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Is It Possible That Stephen Strasburg Just Didn't Have It Last Night?

I know, I know, Stephen Strasburg pitched well enough to win last night. I can see that through six innings, he hadn't allowed a run and still had a healthy amount of strikeouts. I know his pitch count was low. But can you honestly tell me that Strasburg had "it" last night?

The seventh inning is what people are going to talk about, but as Adam Kilgore points out in Nationals Journal, Strasburg was pitching as well as we have seen,

After throwing an unreal 75 of his 95 pitches for strikes in his last start, Strasburg did falter with his typically precise control at times. He threw first-pitch balls to 15 of the 25 batters he faced. He walked Chipper Jones, the leadoff batter in the seventh, on four pitches.

Whether it was the Atlanta heat or the Braves lineup, Stephen Strasburg wasn't incredible last night, and he knew it.

"Definitely, next time around, if my pitches aren't working I'm going to have to stick with them a little bit more," Strasburg said. "Because I'm going to need them. I can't just eliminate one pitch because it's not really working early on. They're going to figure it out pretty fast when you're only throwing two pitches."

But (and we really like to see this) Strasburg refuses to let that become an excuse.

"When you have those type of outings when your stuff is not really there, the top pitchers in the league are going to get through it," Strasburg said. "For the most part, I did well enough. I kept the team in the ballgame. But things aren't working for us right now. We've got to keep our heads up. We've got to go out there and keep working hard."

Its totally unfair to expect Strasburg to be at his absolute best every night. I know this. In fact, his "not-so good" stuff is still better than most starting pitchers. But on a night when the Nationals are seemingly refusing to score runs, only to start booting the ball all over the park in the seventh, Strasburg would have needed to be at his peak to keep his team in the game.

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Stephen Strasburg Simply Out-Dueled By Tim Hudson

While Stephen Strasburg entered the game with all the hype, Tim Hudson was the pitcher that walked off the mound with the headlines. The D.C. coverage is all about Strasburg today; but our Braves' blog, Talking Chop, reminds us that he wasn't the only guy on the mound last night.

Tim Hudson continued his incredible (and incredibly consistent) season tonight in the mugginess of Turner Field. Through seven gritty innings--all of them in a scoreless tie--Tim induced grounder after grounder, keeping the Nationals' hitters completely off-balance. He wasn't all finesse, though. He struck out 6 men, and when he needed a strikeout, he got it.

Even though the Braves are their bread and butter, they too couldn't resist talking about the young phenom Mr. Strasburg.

Strasburg struck out 5 straight in the 5th and 6th innings, the only time all night when he really looked as good as the hype. The Braves actually had a few opportunities earlier in the game to score off the phenom, but they couldn't quite come through. They had a runner thrown out at the plate to end the 1st and grounded into two double plays. Through 4 innings, Strasburg had only 2 strikeouts, and was pitching more like Tim Hudson than like himself (he finished with 10/16 ground balls, or 63%). It was impressive, yes, but not "Oh my God, I've never seen anyone this good!!!" impressive.

I hate to admit it, but they are right. Even though he had not allowed a run through six innings, its hard to look at Stephen Strasburg's performance last night and declare he was on his game. He had guys on base for most of the game, and even though it didn't affect the score line, pitching from the stretch might have affected him. But like Talking Chop has pointed out, tonight, it was all about Stephen Strasburg. Tim Hudson was simply better.

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Even Stephen Strasburg Cannot Stop Losing Streak, Nationals Fall To Braves 5-0

Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - Tim Hudson pitched seven innings and the Atlanta Braves scored all their runs in the seventh frame to deal Stephen Strasburg his second straight loss in a 5-0 victory over the Washington Nationals.

Hudson (8-3) allowed five hits, walked three and fanned six batters to move to 9-1 lifetime against the Nationals franchise. The right-hander bounced back from a loss to the White Sox and moved to 5-1 at home this season.

Strasburg (2-2) was charged with six hits and four runs -- three earned -- over 6 1/3 innings. The powerful rookie right-hander had seven more strikeouts, raising his total to 48 over his first five starts.

Strasburg was on the wrong side of a 1-0 final against Kansas City last Wednesday. The Nationals have scored just one run in his last three starts.

Yunel EscobarGregor Blanco and pinch-hitter Omar Infante all singled in runs in the seventh inning. Eric Hinske and Martin Prado added sacrifice flies for the Braves, who have won 17 of their last 19 home games.

Roger Bernadina had a pair of hits for the Nationals, who have lost five in a row and 11 of their last 13 games.

The Braves had a great chance to put a run on the board in the first inning. Melky Cabrera doubled with one out, but was thrown out at the plate to end the inning trying to score on Brian McCann's single to left field. Josh Willingham made a perfect one-hop throw to the plate.

Bernadina struck out swinging to end the top of the fourth, leaving two runners on base.

Atlanta sent 10 men to the plate in the seventh, when Strasburg unraveled. He walked Chipper Jones to start the inning and McCann then singled up the middle. The bases were loaded after shortstop Ian Desmondcommitted a fielding error on a ball hit by Troy Glaus.

Hinske then lofted a sac fly to center and Escobar followed with a clean RBI single to left. Sean Burnett then entered from the bullpen to replace Strasburg, but Blanco was up next and dragged a bunt toward first base. Burnett slid on his knees in an attempt to get the ball, but couldn't make the play and the infield hit scored Glaus for a 3-0 margin.

Infante then grounded a ball in the hole on the left side. The ball caromed off the glove of third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. The infield hit plated Escobar.

Drew Storen then faced Prado, who lifted a sacrifice fly to right field.

Jonny Venters retired the side in order in the eighth, but walked two batters with one out in the ninth. The lefty struck out Desmond and then got pinch- hitter Cristian Guzman to ground out to end the game.

Jones has an 11-game hitting streak...Strasburg came two strikeouts shy of tying the record for most strikeouts in his first five starts to a career. Herb Score had 50 for Cleveland in 1955...The Nationals have dropped 21 of their last 25 contests outside of DC...Braves right fielder Jason Heyward was put on the disabled list with a bone bruise on his left hand. Matt Diaz is expected to be activated from the DL on Tuesday to take Heyward's place.

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7:10 P.M.: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals Take On Braves, Sans Jason Heyward

(Sports Network) - The Nationals drafted Stephen Strasburg with the hopes that he could one day headline a rotation that would make Washington a contender in the National League East.

The 21-year-old phenom gets his first crack at division play this evening when the Nats visit the first-placeAtlanta Braves for the opener of a three-game series at Turner Field.

Strasburg has gone 2-1 with a 1.78 earned run average over his first four starts, striking out 41 batters over 25 1/3 innings since making his debut on June 8 versus the Pirates. His last three starts have all come against American League opponents and the right-hander will be trying tonight to rebound from his first career loss.

Despite allowing just one earned run for a third straight outing, Strasburg suffered a 1-0 setback to the Royalson Wednesday. He allowed a career-high nine hits, but didn't walk a batter and struck out nine to pass former Cleveland hurler Herb Score for the most strikeouts through the first four starts of a big league career.

"For the most part, I went out there and threw strikes," said Strasburg, who threw 75 of his 95 pitches for strikes. "Couple mistakes by me. They really didn't hit the ball hard, except for a couple times they found holes, but that's baseball."

The Nationals hope that the San Diego State product can go deep into this contest after Washington blew leads in all three games of its weekend series with Baltimore. The Orioles recorded the winning run in Sunday's 4-3 contest on Miguel Tejada's two-out single in the eighth inning that handed Nats reliever Tyler Clippard his second loss in as many days.

"It feels devastating," Clippard said of the three losses. "We're battling our butts off, we're playing good but we're coming up short and it's not fun."

Washington, which got a two-run homer by Roger Bernadina, has lost four straight and 12 of its last 15 to fall 11 games back of the Braves in the NL East.

The Nats have also lost 20 of their last 24 road contests and tonight face a team with the best home record in baseball. The Braves are 26-8 at Turner Field this year despite Sunday's 10-4 loss to the Tigers that halted the club's seven-game home winning streak.

Troy Glaus and Brian McCann notched RBI doubles for the Braves, who have lost four of their last six and lead the Mets by just a half-game for the top spot in the NL East. Starter Tommy Hanson lasted just 3 2/3 innings, yielding six runs -- five earned -- on eight hits.

"I felt pretty good until that fourth inning," Hanson said. "The wheels just came off. Just a frustrating inning."

Atlanta rookie Jason Heyward did not play on Sunday due to a left thumb injury and he is slated to have an MRI today. He is batting .251 this year with 11 homers and 45 RBI, but his hitting just .172 over his last 25 games.

While the Nationals are turning to their young star, the Braves counter with a veteran in Tim Hudson, who is an outstanding 7-3 this year with a 2.54 ERA. The 34-year-old, though, allowed more than three earned runs for the first time this year in Wednesday's loss to the White Sox, getting charged with four runs on six hits and three walks over seven innings of a 4-2 setback.

Hudson, who has pitched at least seven innings in each of his last four starts, is 4-1 with a 1.87 ERA in five home starts this season and has won his last seven decisions versus the Nats franchise since his lone loss to them on June 5, 2006.

In 14 career starts against them, the right-hander is 8-1 with a 1.62 ERA and got a no-decision in a May 6 meeting that saw him allow two runs over seven frames of work.

Atlanta lost two of three in that set at Washington, and the Nationals have won six of the last seven matchups between the two clubs.

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