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Washington Nationals Drop 7-4 Decision To Atlanta Braves, Stephen Strasburg Struggles Early.

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 23:  Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals pitches against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park on September 23, 2011 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 23: Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals pitches against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park on September 23, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
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• Strasburg vs Hudson Top 5: 

5. 38-Pitch 1st: After a slight delay pushed the start of tonight's game back fourteen minutes, Stephen Strasburg threw a 94 mph fastball to leadoff batter Michael Bourn to begin the season-series ending three-game set between Strasburg's Washington Nationals and Bourn's visiting Atlanta Braves. The Nats' 23-year-old right-hander got Bourn swinging with an 89 mph 2-2 change for out no. 1, but then gave up three-straight singles, the third an RBI hit by Dan Uggla that brought Martin Prado home from third to give the Braves an early 1-0 lead.

Strasburg struck Brian McCann out with a 97 mph heater, but a two-out RBI single by Freddie Freeman made it 2-0 Braves, and an error by Ryan Zimmerman on a hard-hit grounder to third by Jack Wilson allowed run number three to cross giving Atlanta a 3-0 lead after a half inning in Nats Park. Strasburg ends the first at 38 pitches. Braves' right-hander Tim Hudson gives up an infield single, but nothing else in a 12-pitch first. 3-0 Braves after one. 

4. 62 Thru Three: Strasburg needs just eleven pitches to retire the Braves in order in the top of the second, but he's up to 49 pitches after two in what could be a quick fourth outing for the Nats' right-hander. Danny Espinosa doubles off the right field wall with one down in the Nationals' second. Double no. 28 of 2011 for Espinosa, and the Nats' second baseman scores one out later on an opposite field single by Wilson Ramos. Ramos fouls off three two-strike pitches and goes with a sinking fastball outside for an RBI single to right off Tim Hudson. 3-1 Braves. Strasburg needs just 13 pitches to get through the third, with a Dan Uggla single through short the only hit by the Braves, but Strasburg's at 62 pitches, 37 strikes after three innings pitched. 

3. 13, 13, 75: Ian Desmond's 2 for 2 with two infield singles after he beats Braves' shortstop Jack Wilson's throw to first from deep in the hole at short. Rick Ankiel's opposite field single gives the Nationals two on with no one out, but Ryan Zimmerman grounds into a 4-6-3 DP and Jayson Werth flies to left to end the Nationals' third. Strasburg gets the first out of the fourth with one pitch when Jack Wilson pops out to short. Jason Heyward runs Strasburg's pitch count up with an eight-pitch at bat that ends with a fly to right and Tim Hudson ducks to avoid a curve that falls in for a called strike before grounding out to end the top of the frame and Strasburg's fourth start. A 13-pitch 4th leaves Strasburg at 75 pitches in 4.0 IP. Strasburg's Line: 4.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K's, 75 pitches, 46 for strikes, 6/3 GO/FO

2. B-Pen: Collin Balester takes over on the mound for the Nats in the fifth, giving up two walks and an RBI double before he's lifted with runners on second and third. 4-1 Braves. Left-hander Atahualpa Severino comes on to face Brian McCann and gives up a two-run double to right-center that brings in the last two runners Balester put on. 6-1 Atlanta before Severino gets the Nats out of the top of the fifth, but they're down by five and Tim Hudson retires the Nationals in order on 9 pitches in the bottom of the frame. 6-1 Braves after 5.0 in Nats Park. 

1. The Big Comeback?: Michael Morse rips a one-out double to left in the Nats' sixth. That's Morse's 36th two-bagger of 2011 and he scores on a Jayson Werth RBI single to center that makes it 6-2 Braves. Danny Espinosa singles off Hudson, moving Werth to second, and a productive groundout by Pudge Rodriguez puts both runners in scoring position for Wilson Ramos, whose infield single brings Werth home to get the Nats within three. 6-3 Braves. Hudson's done. Cristhian Martinez gets the final out of the frame, but it's a game again. 

0. No. 20 of 2011: Yunesky Maya throws two scoreless innings against the Braves, but with the WIld Card in doubt, Atlanta's going with the A-pen. Eric O'Flaherty gives up a two-out single by Ryan Zimmerman in the seventh, but nothing else. Jonny Venters comes on for the eighth, goes to a full count with Jayson Werth and gives up HR no. 20 of 2011 by the Nats' outfielder. Venters throws a 95 mph full-count fastball to the Nationals' slugger and it ends up 20 rows deep in the right field seats. 6-4 Braves after eight, though as Venters shuts Washington down after the HR. (ed. note - "Before Jayson Werth's HR off Jonny Venters, the #Braves' LHP hadn't given one up in 152 G, 491 PA vs RHB.")

A botched rundown in the top of the ninth extends the Braves' lead to three runs. Braves' closer Craig Kimbrel gives up a leadoff single by Chris Marrero in the ninth, but shuts the door. 7-4 Atlanta and the Cards are losing to the Cubs in Busch II. Big night for Atlanta if Chicago holds on. 

• Miss The Game? The DC Faithful Were Watching...

• Doghouse's Post Game WPA Graph: "COMING SOON."

Nationals now 76-80.