Stephen Strasburg struck out 10+ batters for the 30th time in his career and he gave up just two earned runs in seven innings of work on the mound last night in SunTrust Park, reaching seven innings for the fourth time in four starts this season.
Ryan Zimmerman hit another home run that ended up being the difference in the Washington Nationals’ 3-2 win over the Atlanta Braves.
But it was the defense that was the story of the night in the series finale with the Nationals’ NL East rivals.
Over here putting on a defensive clinic.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) April 21, 2017
“Our outfield defense and our defense overall was very good,” Dusty Baker told reporters after the Nationals swept the three-game set.
“Anthony [Rendon] made a heck of a play,” Baker continued. “Michael [A. Taylor] made the play of the game, because if that ball gets by him, that’s a triple, and Adam Eaton made a heck of a play in left field.”
And there was that shoestring catch Bryce Harper made out in right at the end of the second on a low liner to right off Ender Inciarte’s bat with runners on second and third in what was a 1-1 game at the time.
Rendon’s diving play and strong throw across the diamond ended Strasburg’s final inning of work in the seventh.
He dove into foul territory on a sharp grounder, popped up and threw a strike to first to beat Adonis Garcia to the bag.
Michael A. Taylor’s catch, an inning earlier, helped preserve the Nationals’ 3-2 lead, an inning after Zimmerman’s 5th home run of the season put them ahead.
With a runner on first, Brandon Phillips (who was barreling the ball up all night) hit a first-pitch fastball to center that Taylor was able to dive for and catch on an all or nothing attempt that could have been an RBI triple or inside the park homer if he hadn’t made the play.
“Either you stay back and let the ball hit in front of you,” Baker said, when asked about the catch after the game, “or you come all the way.
“For an outfielder, the jump is essential. That’s why Michael was in center tonight and Eaton was in left.
“Our outfield defense was going to come into play because Stras throws more fly balls probably than ground balls.”
DE - FENSE! DE - FENSE! pic.twitter.com/r5DYqXlABw— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) April 21, 2017
“That was an outstanding play,” Baker said.
“As an outfielder, you’ve got to get the jump, especially on a ball like that, and then if you kind of miscalculate how far the ball is going to you then your next move is to try to figure out how to keep the ball in front of you.
“That was an outstanding play by Michael and another outstanding play by Eaton in left field.”
Eaton, who was in left with Jayson Werth out of the lineup, made his big catch in the seventh, in the at bat before Rendon’s play, with a runner on first.
Inciarte’s liner towards the gap handcuffed Eaton, who had to turn his glove at the last second from backhand attempt to make the underhanded catch as he tumbled to his knees awkwardly on the outfield grass.
“We had three great defensive plays against us, probably,” Braves’ skipper Brian Snitker said. “Inches either way, three balls, and we score three runs.”
“Those are runs right there. Brandon may score on that one, the diving catch in center field, if it gets by him, just inches away.”
The Nationals made the plays, however, and took the finale of the three-game set, sweeping the Braves and improving to 10-5 on the year as they head to New York.
We talked about Stephen Strasburg’s start, the Nats’ D and more on Nats Nightly after the game:
AUDIO: #Nats Nightly on the #Nationals' 3-2 win; sweep of the #Braves + #Stretchburg; MAT; facing R.A. Dickey +more: https://t.co/Em2UswInYw— federalbaseball (@federalbaseball) April 21, 2017