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Braves 8-4 Over Nationals: Stephen Strasburg Makes 2014 ST Debut

The Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves were tied at four through seven, but the defending NL East Champs rallied against Nats' reliever Luis Ayala and broke things open. Braves win, 8-4 final. Stephen Strasburg made his spring debut this afternoon...

Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Stephen Strasburg gave up a one-out single to center field off of outfielder Justin Upton's bat in the second of two scoreless innings the '09 no.1 overall pick threw against the Atlanta Braves this afternoon in Lake Buena Vista, Florida's Champion Stadium.

Strasburg's first Grapefruit League outing was over one batter later, however, after just 15 pitches, 11 of them strikes by the 25-year-old right-hander, when Braves' third baseman Chris Johnson grounded out to Nationals' shortstop Ian Desmond to start an inning-ending 6-4-3 DP.

LINK: Quick Post on Strasburg's Debut.

Nats' right-hander Taylor Jordan got help from his defense too, with Anthony Rendon making a diving play at second to rob Jason Heyward of a hit after Andrelton Simmons singled off Jordan with one down in what ended up being a scoreless inning of work by the 25-year-old candidate for the fifth spot in the Nationals' rotation.

The Nationals loaded the bases in the top of the fourth and went up 2-0 when Adam LaRoche hit an RBI groundout to second and Wilson Ramos hit an RBI single to center. Braves' catcher Evan Gattis hit a two-run double in the bottom of the inning, connecting for the Braves' third straight hit off of Jordan after both B.J. Upton and Freddie Freeman singled. 2-2.

Ian Desmond broke the tie up a half-inning later when he connected for his third hit in three at bats. This one was a solo home run on a hanging curve from Braves' right-handed reliever Cory Gearrin. Desmond also stole a base in the fourth, leaving him 3 for 3 in SB attempts so far this spring.

A.J. Cole, the Nats' 22-year-old, 2010 4th Round pick, threw a scoreless bottom of the fifth against the Braves after the Nationals took the lead on Desmond's blast. Cole came back out for a second inning of work in the sixth and retired three more batters in order:

Brian Goodwin was 1 for 3 today after he hit a booming double to center off Braves' RHP J.R. Graham, and he scored when Jamey Carroll walked to put runners on the corners then broke for second in the next at bat. Carroll stopped and got himself in a rundown to allow Goodwin to break for home, which he did, scoring to make it 4-2 in the seventh inning when Dan Uggla bobbled the ball on the play and made a poor throw to the plate...E4. #Mattitude?

Drew Storen made his spring debut in the bottom of the seventh inning this afternoon, issuing a leadoff walk to the first batter he faced, Tommy LaStella. Storen walked the second batter too, putting Chris Johnson on, and one-out later Andrelton Simmons drove them both in with a two-run double that tied the game at 4-4.

Veteran reliever Luis Ayala walked the first two Braves he faced in the bottom of the eighth and a single by backstop prospect Christian Bethancourt loaded the bases with no out out. Tommy LaStella lined out to Jamey Carroll for the first out of the inning. Infielder Philip Gosselin came up next and Nats' skipper Matt Williams took the opportunity to experiment with a five-man infield, calling Steven Souza in from right only to have Gosselin line a base-clearing triple to right-center to blow things open, 7-4 Braves. A sac fly brought in the eighth run.

The Nationals loaded the bases with one out in the ninth and got what should have been a sac fly to right, but the Braves cut the throw in and caught Steven Souza at first. Double play. Ballgame.

Atlanta wins, 8-4 final.