The Washington Nationals pushed their lead in the NL East to seven games on Tuesday night with a 4-1 win over the Atlanta Braves.
The win clinched the series for the Nats, who were paced by an outstanding start from Stephen Strasburg. The Washington ace struck out 10 Braves in six innings of work. It was unclear whether Strasburg would return after a 51-minute rain delay, but he re-took the mound and didn't miss a beat as he mowed down the division rivals.
On offense, the Nationals had two quick strikes via the long ball to provide Strasburg a four-run cushion. Ian Desmond went deep for the second time in as many nights, crushing one into the left-field seats in the bottom of the second. Desmond was hitless in the series against the Mets after returning from the DL, but he appears to be quickly regaining his All-Star form.
The second blast came in the bottom of the fifth and this time it was the No. 8 hitter in the lineup. Catcher Jesus Flores caught a Paul Maholm offering with Desmond and Adam LaRoche on base, ricocheting it off the railing above the wall in left. The four-run lead would be more than enough for Strasburg and the Nationals bullpen.
Drew Storen, Sean Burnett, and Tyler Clippard cleaned up the final three innings to preserve the win. Things got a little interesting in the top of the ninth, but Clippard induced three straight outs in the air to strand two runners and end the game. Dan Uggla and Brian McCann popped out in the infield on two consecutive pitches and Juan Francisco sent one deeper to right, but Jayson Werth camped under it.
The Nats can now take a further stranglehold on the division with a sweep on Wednesday. Ross Detwiler will go for Washington while Kris Medlen will pitch for Atlanta.
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