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Nationals drop series finale to Braves, 6-2, take 2 of 3 in D.C.

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The Atlanta Braves scored three runs on Stephen Strasburg, leaving the right-hander with a 7.17 ERA on the year against the Washington Nationals' NL East rivals, then added on three more against the Nats' pen for a series-salvaging 6-2 win.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Three straight vs the Braves? That's unpossible Top 5:

5. Quick Recap: Washington Nationals' right-hander Stephen Strasburg, on 58 pitches, and Atlanta Braves' righty Aaron Harang, on 61, started the series finale in the nation's capital with four scoreless innings each, but Strasburg's 59th pitch, a 96 mph fastball to B.J. Upton, ended up sailing out to left field for a solo blast and a 1-0 lead. Upton's 11th of the season.

The Nationals tied it up at one in the bottom of the fifth, however, with Denard Span and Kevin Frandsen (3 for 3) hitting back-to-back two-out singles before Harang threw a wild pitch to Jayson Werth that brought Span in from third. 1-1.

It wasn't tied for long though, as Freddie Freeman lined a full-count change to left for a leadoff double in the sixth and scored from second on a Justin Upton single to right that bounced off Adam LaRoche's glove. Two outs later, Tommy La Stella doubled to left-center, took third on a wild pitch to Christian Bethancourth and scored when the Braves catcher lined a full-count curve to right, 3-1 Braves.

The Braves loaded the bases in the seventh with no one out and a sac fly to right by Freddie Freeman made it 4-1 and ended a brief outing by Jerry Blevins. Ryan Mattheus gave up a two-run double to left by Justin Upton that made it 6-1 in D.C.

Bryce Harper added a run in the ninth with a solo shot to right off Craig Kimbrel, but that's as close as the Nationals would get.

That's how it ended... 6-2 final. Nats take 2 of 3 but drop the finale.

4. Williams likes P2C Stras: Washington Nationals' right-hander Stephen Strasburg, 26, took the mound against the Atlanta Braves this afternoon in Nationals Park with an NL-leading 215 Ks after 30 starts and 189 innings pitched in 2014, two Ks ahead of the Reds' Johnny Cueto (213) and five up on the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw's 210.

Before the series finale with the Nats' divisional rivals, manager Matt Williams was asked what it would mean to Strasburg and the team for the pitcher to lead the National League in strikeouts at the end of the season?

"I think that for me when he doesn't have a lot of strikeouts pile up during the course of a game he goes deeper in the game for us." - Nats' skipper Matt Williams on Stephen Strasburg and Ks

"I don't know," Williams said. "I think it's a double-edged sword, honestly, for Stephen. I think that for me when he doesn't have a lot of strikeouts pile up during the course of a game he goes deeper in the game for us. It means he's getting early contact and the strikeouts don't come necessarily because there's contact made, but I think that's a good thing for him. If he's pinpointing fastball, using the little sinker he's got, using his changeup and they're swinging and they're grounding balls to the infield, that's a good sign for him.

"So I don't know. I think that it's really nice to strike guys out and have that, but from a team perspective, I think it's better when he doesn't have as many strikeouts. But, you know, he's going to get them, that's just kind of the function of his pitches and the way he goes about it. But his pitch count tends to get a little higher a little earlier when he's punching a lot of guys out. For his longevity within that game, less strikeouts is probably better."

"Strike one is key, and so if the other team is aggressive it also will turn into some early outs too. So those are both good things, but it all starts with that..." -Williams on Strasburg's keys to success

"Again, I think for him, like [Jordan Zimmermann], strike one is really important. And having fastball command is really important for him, to both sides of the plate. In recent starts we've really seen that come to the forefront. And that helps. That helps him with all of those aspects of the game, whether it's being able to strike a guy out, or climb the ladder or using his curveball and changeup, strike one is key, and so if the other team is aggressive it also will turn into some early outs too. So those are both good things, but it all starts with that, for me anyway, and I think for him, fastball command and throwing it where you want to is key for him."

Strasburg was facing the Braves for the fourth time this season this afternoon, after going (0-2) with a high 8.22 ERA and a .338/.382/.606 line against in his first 15 ⅓ IP against them in the first three starts this season.

Last time out against the Braves, in Atlanta, GA's Turner Field, the Nationals' '09 no.1 overall pick gave up seven hits, two walks and seven runs all earned in five innings in which he gave up four home runs and struck out nine on 89 pitches.

Strasburg's fourth start of the year against the Braves began with a swinging K...

1st: Braves' leadoff man Jason Heyward K'd swinging at an 83 mph 0-2 curve. Phil Gosselin took a 1-1 change for a HBP. Freddie Freeman hit a fly ball to the left field corner where Bryce Harper made a sliding catch just in front of the wall. Justin Upton stepped in with one on and two out and sent another fly to Harper, who caught out no.3 of a nine-pitch first.

2nd: Chris Johnson went down swinging at a 90 mph 1-2 change. Tommy La Stella tested Adam LaRoche's backhand on a sharp grounder to first that LaRoche handled gracefully and effortlessly. Christian Bethancourt singled to center on a 96 mph 2-2 fastball to bring B.J. Upton up with one on and two out. Upton went down swinging at a 96 mph 1-2 fastball up high outside for out no.3 and K no.3 in two scoreless by Strasburg. 20-pitch frame, 29 total after two.

3rd: A 1-2 bender locked Aaron Harang up and sent him back to the third base dugout. Jason Heyward singled to center field on a 2-0 fastball. Phil Gosselin sent a grounder to second, but Asdrubal Cabrera's backhand shuffle to second base went by Danny Espinosa and into left allowing Heyward to take third while Gosselin moved up. Score it fielder's choice + E4. Freddie Freeman K'd swinging when Strasburg buried an 0-2 curve inside. Justin Upton got sawed off and grounded out to short. 15-pitch frame, 44 total after three.

4th: Chris Johnson lined out to right for the first out of the fourth. Tommy La Stella grounded out to second. Kevin Frandsen barehanded a chopper from Christian Bethancourt and bounced a throw to first that Adam LaRoche scooped. WowFrandsenWow. 14-pitch frame, 58 total after four.

5th: B.J. Upton ran into a 96 mph first-pitch fastball inside and put it out to left for a solo shot and a 1-0 lead in the fifth. Aaron Harang K'd looking at a 2-2 fastball for the first out of the frame. Jason Heyward grounded back to the mound. Phil Gosselin took an 0-2 heater for a called strike three and out no.3 of a 10-pitch fifth. 68 total for Strasburg after five.

6th: Freddie Freeman took a 3-2 changeup outside to the left field corner for a leadoff double in the Braves' sixth and scored on a sharp grounder by first off Adam LaRoche's glove by Justin Upton that gave Atlanta's its lead back a half- inning after the Nationals tied it up. 2-1 ATL. Upton was caught stealing with Chris Johnson up, and Johnson K'd swinging at the next pitch from Strasburg for out no.2. Tommy La Stella doubled to left-center with two down, just out of Denard Span's reach. A wild pitch to Christian Bethancourt moved La Stella to third, and he scored on an RBI single to right by the Braves' catcher, who went down, down for a 3-2 curve and lined it to right. 3-1 Braves. B.J. Upton's groundout to second ended a 31-pitch frame. 99 overall for Strasburg.

Stephen Strasburg's line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 8 Ks, 1 HR, 99 P, 67 S, 7/2 GO/FO.

3. Harang in D.C.: Veteran right-hander Aaron Harang held the Washington Nationals to a run on seven hits and two walks in seven innings of work last time out in Turner Field in a 4-1 loss to the Nats in which he received no decision.

When he faced the Braves' NL East rivals earlier this season in Atlanta, he did pretty much the same, giving up five hits, a walk and one earned run in six innings of a 10-2 win.

The 36-year-old starter has struggled so far in the second-half of his first campaign with the Braves, however, going (1-4) with Atlanta 1-8 in his last nine starts, over which he's put up a 5.06 ERA, a 3.81 FIP and a .301/.358/.430 line against in 59 ⅓ IP.

Harang's tenth start of the second-half and his third of the year against the Nationals began with a scoreless 11-pitch first in which he pitched around a one-out single to right by Kevin Frandsen.

Asdrubal Cabrera lined the first pitch of the Nats' second to left for a leadoff single. Bryce Harper stepped in with a runner on and went ahead 3-1, but sent a fly ball to the wall in right where Jason Heyward made the catch. Danny Espinosa sent Cabrera around to third with a one-out single to right. Jose Lobaton K'd looking though, and Stephen Strasburg lined out to a leaping Freddie Freeman at first to end the threat and a 15-pitch frame by Harang, who was up to 26 total after two.

Kevin Frandsen reached on a one-out infield single in the Nats' third, but Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche K'd swinging in back-to-back at bats to end the bottom of the inning. 24-pitch frame for Harang, 50 total after three.

The Nats went down in order in an 11-pitch fourth that left Harang at 61 pitches.

Denard Span singled to right with two out in the Nats' fifth and Kevin Frandsen dropped his third hit of the day into right-center in the next AB. Jayson Werth stepped in with an RBI opportunity, but a first-pitch slider got by Braves' backstop Christian Bethancourt, allowing Span to score from third and tie it up at 1-1. Werth grounded out to second on the next pitch to end a 13-pitch frame for Harang, who was up to 74 overall.

A quick, eight-pitch, 1-2-3 sixth left Harang at 82 pitches. An 12-pitch, 1-2-3 seventh left Harang at 94 pitches.

Aaron Harang's Line: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 Ks, 94 P, 65 S, 2/7 GO/FO.

2. Bullpen Sitrep: So who goes in the ninth tonight if there's a save opportunity? Drew Storen has pitched for three straight days, earning three straight saves, but after last night's game, Nats' skipper Matt Williams said he'd likely avoid using Storen for a fourth straight game. So would he try to give Rafael Soriano some work in a non-save situation? Would Williams possibly got to the now-former closer in a save situation? Did Tyler Clippard rest yesteday so he would be available in the ninth if necessary this afternoon?

Williams didn't say who he'd turn to in the ninth, but he did offer the following update on his pen.

"[Soriano] is good. He had a heavy bullpen, had yesterday off, so he feels good. [Clippard] got the day yesteday, so he's good, Matt [Thornton is] good. [Ross Detwiler] and [Craig Stammem] are fine, it would be three in a row if [Stammen] went today, but he'd be limited to one batter. But he said last night after the game he felt good. Det feels good, so there's a combination of a lot of guys that we could use today, but three guys that have experience in the back of the bullpen are ready and available for today if need be."

The A-pen wasn't a problem, and there were no tough decisions on that end for Williams today, but the B-pen, in the form of Jerry Blevins and Ryan Mattheus didn't do too well. Soriano did get some work though, giving up a double and a single in a scoreless inning of work.

1. The Wrap-Up: Jerry Blevins took over on the mound in the seventh and gave up back-to-back singles by the opposing pitcher and leadoff hitter, Aaron Harang and Jason Heyward. A HBP on Phil Gosselin loaded the bases with no one out. Freddie Freeman lined to right in the next at bat and only a running, leaping catch by Jayson Werth saved Blevins from a blow-up. Sac fly instead, 4-1 Braves. A two-run double to left by Justin Upton made it a 6-1 game.

Rafael Soriano took the mound for the Nationals in the Braves' eighth, pitching for the first time since last Friday night's blown save. Ryan Doumit doubled with one down. Jason Heyward singled to right to get the boo-birds in D.C. booing. Phil Gosselin K'd swinging at a 92 mph 1-2 fastball. Heyward stole second on defensive indifference, but Freddie Freeman lined out to third to strand two runners and end a 15-pitch inning by Soriano.

Blake Treinen threw a scoreless ninth with help from Denard Span on an outfield assist.

Craig Kimbrel came on in a non-save situation and gave up a one-out home run by Bryce Harper, who bounced a 2-2 curve off the facade of the second deck in right. 6-2. That's how it ended.

Nationals now 82-62