5. He's back!!!: Stephen Strasburg went on the 15-Day DL with "neck tightness" on May 30th, after a string off less-than-impressive outings by the 26-year-old, '09 no.1 overall pick. The plan, as Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo explained it at the time, was to give the right-hander time to rest up from an assortment of injuries which all seemed to start when he rolled his ankle in Spring Training. With his mechanics out of whack as he compensated for the injury, Strasburg was dealing with variety of back issues.
"The ankle injury back in Spring Training kind of altered his mechanics and altering [his] mechanics kind of affected his back a little bit where he has a little knot in his back the last couple of starts," Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier.
"So what we're trying to do is we're trying to settle down all the injuries that he has and make sure that the ankle is perfectly right so he can get on line with his delivery and make sure his mechanics are good so it doesn't affect his back or any other part of his body."
In ten starts before he landed on the Disabled List, Strasburg was (3-5) with a 6.55 ERA, a 3.96 FIP, 14 walks (2.78 BB/9) and 45 Ks (8.93 K/9) in 45 ⅓ innings pitched. He had a .320/.377/.497 line against in those outings.
With runners on base, opposing hitters had a .398/.457/.553 line against him, and with runners in scoring position it was .387/.419/.593.
Strasburg made one rehab start with the Double-A Harrisburg Senators last week, and returned to the majors to face Atlanta, against whom he was (4-7) in 17 career starts, with a 4.24 ERA, 27 walks (2.79 BB/9) and 109 Ks (11.28 K/9) in 87 IP, over which he'd held Braves' hitters to a combined .270/.327/.415 line.
His first start of the year against the Nats' NL East rivals began two hours and twelve minutes later than expected when a big storm hit D.C., but at 9:17 PM EDT, Strasburg took the mound and retired the first two batters he faced, sitting 96-98 with his fastball. Nick Markakis singled up the middle with two down, taking 96 mph heater to center, but he was stranded on the basepaths when A.J. Pierzynski hit a one-hop liner to short to end a 20-pitch first with a force at second.
Chris Johnson singled to right on a 97 mph 0-1 fastball with one down in the Braves' second, but he was forced out at second base one out later for out no.3 of a 12-pitch second that left Strasburg at 32 total after two.
Two swinging Ks and a groundout to third got Strasburg through a quick, 16-pitch, 1-2-3 third inning that left him at 48 pitches overall after three.
Nick Markakis took a 2-1 fastball through the right side for a leadoff single in the fourth, but he was forced out on a grounder to short before Yunel Escobar (in the shift) made a throwing error trying to turn a double play. Juan Uribe K'd swinging on a 97 mph 1-2 fastball for out no.2, and Strasburg threw a 97 mph 2-2 heater by Chris Johnson up high for out no.3 and his 5th K. 20-pitch frame, 68 total after four.
Eury Perez lined a double to left, over Michael Taylor's head with one down in the Braves' fifth, and Strasburg issued his first walk to the opposing pitcher, putting two on in front of Jace Peterson. Strasburg missed trying to backdoor a 2-2 curve, but threw a 96 mph heater by Peterson for a swinging K (no.6) and out no.2 and then Cameron Maybin grounded out to second to end a 26-pitch frame that left Strasburg at 94 pitches.
• Stephen Strasburg's Line: 5.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 Ks, 94 P, 64 S, 7/1 GO/FO.
4. Woods vs Washington: In two starts against the Nationals this season before tonight's, 24-year-old Braves' lefty Alex Wood was (0-1) with a 6.17 ERA (8 ER in 11 ⅔ IP) two walks, 15 Ks and a .304/.333/.370 line against.
Those outings left the left-hander (3-2) in eight career starts against Washington with a 2.63 ERA in 48 innings, over which Nats' hitters had a combined .254/.304/.367 line against him.
Wood took the mound in the series opener in Nationals Park (4-4) in 13 starts this season with a 3.40 ERA, 3.39 FIP, 25 walks (2.84 BB/9), 60 Ks (6.81 K/9) and a .281/.342/.386 line against in 79 ⅓ IP, coming off a stretch of three starts in which he was (0-2) with a 4.15 ERA, seven walks (3.86 BB/9) and 18 Ks (9.92 K/9) in 16 ⅓ IP over which opposing hitters had a .261/.338/.420 line.
Wood had a four-start winning streak on the road stopped last time out away from Turner Field, but he entered tonight's outing (4-1) with a 2.58 ERA in 52 ⅓ innings outside of Atlanta this season.
The Braves' lefty's first inning of work started with a double to right field by Denard Span, who hit a 1-1 fastball to the base of the out of town scoreboard then scored on an Anthony Rendon single to right, 1-0.
The Nats went down in order in a 13-pitch third that left Wood at 23 total after two.
Michael Taylor singled to center, took second on an E:8 by Cameron Maybin and stole third (his 8th SB) to get 90ft from home with no one out in the Nats' third. One out later, Denard Span singled him in with a grounder through the left side that made it 2-0 Nationals. Anthony Rendon singled in the next at bat, but was forced out at second, leaving runners at first and third for Bryce Harper, who sent a line drive to right to Nick Markakis in right to end an 25-pitch frame that left wood a 48 total.
Tyler Moore walked with one down to put two on in the Nationals' fourth, and Michael Taylor singled to left to drive Danny Espinosa in from second and make it 3-0 after four. 21-pitch frame for Wood, 69 total.
Anthony Rendon singled to start the Nats' fifth, but was doubled up and a groundout to short by Yunel Escobar and Bryce Harper's groundout to second ended a seven-pitch frame that left Wood at 76 total.
Wilson Ramos singled to start the sixth, but was forced out at second two outs later as Wood completed an 11-pitch frame at 87 total. Anthony Rendon was 4 for 4 after he singled with two out in the seventh, but he was forced out at second in the next at bat. 11-pitch frame, 98 total.
• Alex Wood's Line: 7.0 IP, 10 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 Ks, 98 P, 66 S, 11/2 GO/FO.
3. Random Game Notes: Freddie Freeman, who sports a ridiculous .340/.389/.519 career line against the Nationals, with 23 doubles and nine home runs in 79 games and 324 plate appearances against Washington in six MLB seasons, was placed on the DL with a right wrist contusion this afternoon, so he won't get a chance to play in the three-game set in nation's capital, where he has a .331/.382/.453 career line.
Ready for ⚾️ pic.twitter.com/SI2w0GpXaf— #VoteBraves (@Braves) June 24, 2015
• The Braves arrived in D.C. after a three-game sweep of the Braves that lifted them back to .500 (35-35) and left them just two games back in the NL East behind the Nationals (37-33) and Mets (36-35).
• Atlanta took the first game of the year from Washington in Turner Field, but has dropped the last five games between the NL East rivals.
• Nick Markakis has now played 396 straight games without an error, going back to August 12, 2012, and on the 18th of June, he set the major league record for games without an error by an outfielder (or any non-pitcher) as Atlanta put it in their game notes.
• Tonight's starter Alex Wood and Braves' right-hander Julio Teheran share the major league lead for pickoff with four each this season.
• '05 Braves' 2nd Round pick Yunel Escobar is currently ranked fourth in the NL in batting average (.331), 4th in hits with 81 and 11th in on-base percentage (.381).
• Denard Span improved to 15 for 46 with three doubles and two home runs as the Nats' leadoff man when he hit a double to right on the third pitch from Alex Wood. Span scored in the next at bat to make it 1-0 early.
• Michael Taylor's stolen base in the third gave him eight in ten attempts this season and tied him for the team lead with Denard Span. The rest of the Nationals have eight stolen bases combined.
2. Turning Point(s): Nats' leadoff man Denard Span got things started with a double to right and off the out-of-town scoreboard. Anthony Rendon followed the two-base hit up with a single to right that brought Span around and returning starter Stephen Strasburg had a 1-0 lead to work with when he took the mound in the second.
• Span came through again in the third, singling through the left side of the infield to drive Michael Taylor in after a single, error in the outfield and stolen base put him on third with no one out. 2-0.
1. The Wrap-Up: Tanner Roark, who's back in the pen again, came on in the sixth and retired the Braves in order in an 11-pitch frame. A 12-pitch, 1-2-3 seventh left Roark at 23 total after two.
Matt Thornton took over in the top of the eighth and gave up a two-out solo blast by Cameron Maybin that got the Braves on the board, 3-1. Back-to-back, two-out singles by Nick Markakis and A.J. Pierzynski ended Thornton's night.
David Carpenter came on next with Juan Uribe up and got a fly to right for out no.3. Still 3-1 Nationals.
Dana Eveland got the first out of the eighth before Brandon Cunniff came on and gave up a double to left by Wilson Ramos. Danny Espinosa singled through short in the next at bat. Tyler Moore K'd swinging for out no.2, bringing Michael Taylor to the plate, but a groundout to second ended the frame.
Drew Storen came on looking for save no.21 of 2015. Andrelton Simmons hit a one-out single to center to bring the tying run to the plate in the form of Eury Perez. Perez went down swinging at a 95 mph 0-2 fastball for out no.2 and pinch hitter Kelly Johnson worked the count full before sending a low liner back to the mound and off Storen for an infield hit. Jace Peterson went to a full count too, and walked to load them up for Cameron Maybin, who popped out behind home. Ballgame.
Nationals now 37-33