WASHINGTON — Bryce Harper is slumping. Stephen Strasburg couldn’t get out of the fifth inning. Ryan Zimmerman couldn’t finish the game because of a sore shoulder.
The Washington Nationals had one really bad night.
Harper went 0-for-4, striking out twice and Strasburg allowing eight hits and six runs as the Atlanta Braves continued their recent mastery of the Nationals with a 6-2 win.
Only three the runs against Strasburg were earned because of a throwing error by Zimmerman in the fourth. The third baseman ended up leaving the game early and manager Matt Williams said the team was hoping to get an MRI exam done on Zimmerman’s surgically repaired shoulder.
Plagued by poor throws and shoulder issues in 2013, Zimmerman lobbed a ball over the head of first baseman Adam LaRoche and into the stands. The two-out miscue paved the way for two unearned runs and Zimmerman was pulled from the game after five innings for what Williams described as “shoulder soreness.”
It was another rough April game for Washington against Atlanta. The Nationals, who went 0-5 against the Braves last April, heard some boos from their fans on Saturday.
“I don’t even want to talk about last year,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “When you pitch and catch the baseball it’s a really good combination to win baseball games.”
Washington grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first inning on an upper-deck shot by LaRoche. But over the next six innings, the Nationals got just two hits off winning pitcher Julio Teheran (1-1).
Teheran walked four and hit a batter, but he compensated with six timely strikeouts and two solid singles to right field, the first of which drove in the tying run with two out in the bottom of the fourth inning and contributed to the early exit for Strasburg.
Atlanta always seems to elevate its game against Strasburg, who has a 3-5 record against the Braves. No other team has handed the right-hander more than three losses in his career.
“I don’t really feel like I got out of my game plan or anything,” Strasburg said of Zimmerman’s error. “I really feel like I was going out there, giving it everything I had and battling. I just left some pitches up.”
In the fifth inning, Strasburg was sent to the dugout after allowing a walk and four straight singles. The hits were supplied by Chris Johnson, Justin Upton, Uggla, and Ryan Doumit. Andrelton Simmons brought home the final run with a sacrifice fly off reliever Aaron Barrett.
Strasburg (0-1) allowed three walks and struck out six in 4 1-3 innings.
As for Harper, he’s down to hitting .143.
Williams hinted that he might sit Harper down on Sunday after the 21-year-old threw his bat and helmet into the dugout following an eighth inning strikeout.
“When that frustration rears its head it’s often times good to give a day,” Williams said.
Harper left the clubhouse with a bat in hand after the game, presumably for some extra work in the cage.
“I’m pretty lost right now actually,” Harper said. “I’m trying everything right now so we’ll see where I’m at tomorrow, give pops a call and see what he says.”
Harper’s only good swing of the game resulted in a liner to center field. The Braves B.J. Upton caught it and threw Jose Lobaton out at the plate for an inning-ending double play in the fifth.
Notes: In the final game of the series on Sunday, Braves lefty Alex Wood (1-0, 1.29 ERA) will oppose Nationals right-hander Taylor Jordan, who gets his first start of the season. . Nationals P Doug Fister, who is out with a lat strain, may get some throwing in on Sunday for the first time since he was placed on the 15-day disabled list on March 29. “Through exercise he feels pretty good,” manager Matt Williams said. “The test is going to be throwing and extending in a controlled environment.” … Illness is going around both clubhouses. Braves C Evan Gattis, who homered on Friday, was out with flu-like symptoms, but was available to pinch hit. Nationals P Gio Gonzalez is battling illness. His next start is set for Tuesday against the Marlins. .. Wood is the first left-hander the Nationals will face this year.
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