The Washington Nationals topped the Atlanta Braves 2-0 June 2 at Nationals Park, in a game that saw two of baseball’s best young pitchers square off.
National’s Stephen Strasburg improved to 6-1 on the season after outdueling Atlanta’s Brandon Beachy, who came into Saturday’s contest with the lowest ERA in the majors.
Strasburg threw seven razor sharp innings, striking out nine and only allowing four hits on 90 pitches.
“After the first inning, I looked at [Mark] DeRosa and said, ‘He’s gonna be tough today to get anything going against,’ and he was,” Nationals outfielder Xavier Nady said. “When you throw 98, 99 and [are] throwing off-speed for strikes, you got your work cut out for you.”
Strasburg is on a strict innings limit, but he felt like he could have pitched deeper into the game.
“I felt like I was getting stronger as the game went on,” Strasburg said. “So it’s tough, but it’s [manager Davey Johnson’s] call.”
Johnson’s call was to pinch hit outfielder Roger Bernadina for Strasburg in the bottom of the seventh. Bernadina, however, never received a plate appearance, as he was pinch hit for by Nady after the Braves brought lefty Jonny Venters out of the bullpen.
Nady smoked a double off the right-field wall that scored Danny Espinosa for an insurance run that put the Nationals in front 2-0.
Washington’s first run came on a home run from Jesús Flores in the fifth inning, the catcher’s second long ball of the season.
Aside from the pitching showcase, another story from Saturday was the season debut of Michael Morse. After missing the season’s first 50 games with a strained lat muscle, Morse returned to the lineup Saturday and batted fifth. He finished the day 0-4, grounding out all four times to the shortstop.
“I felt good”, Morse said. “Every at-bat, I felt more comfortable.”
Johnson was pleased with what he saw from Morse, who clubbed a team-high 31 home runs in 2011.
“He looked good,” Johnson said. “I said, ‘Don’t get the idea that I’m gonna be defending for you,’ but it worked out just perfect. He got four at-bats, and he should be fresh for the next game.”
Morse should help a lineup that has only mustered nine runs in the club’s last four games.
Tyler Clippard closed the game out for the Nats, retiring Atlanta in order in the ninth with two strikeouts.
June 3’s matchup is also shaping up to be a great pitcher’s duel, with the Braves sending Tommy Hanson to the mound against Gio Gonzalez. Gonzalez is second in the National League in ERA, WHIP and strikeouts, while Hanson will be looking to help Atlanta earn its first win against the Nats this season.