ATLANTA — Stephen Strasburg can’t explain why he has struggled on the road this season.
Just as frustrating, however, is his poor career record against the Atlanta Braves, whose four homers marked a single-game career high for Washington’s ace.
Justin Upton, Freddie Freeman and two other Braves homered off Strasburg, and the Nationals’ comeback attempt fell short in a 7-6 loss to Atlanta on Friday night.
“I just didn’t execute pitches the way I needed to,” Strasburg said. “I felt pretty good — just the ball was up.”
Rain delayed the game by 1 hour, 11 minutes in the middle of the sixth inning.
Atlanta, which nearly blew a 7-0 lead, moved within 3½ games of NL East-leading Washington. The Nationals, who had won two straight and four of six, have lost 21 of 30 against the Braves.
“We were down early but fought back hard,” Washington manager Matt Williams said. “I mean guys really fought back. Not quite enough at the end.”
Strasburg (8-10) gave up two more homers than his previous worst. He allowed seven runs, seven hits and two walks with nine strikeouts in five innings, dropping to 1-3 with a 6.99 ERA in seven starts at Turner Field.
“I can’t put a finger on that,” Freeman said. “I really can’t. I know he’s got great stuff. The mistakes he makes — for some reason we’re able to hit them. That’s what he did tonight. He left some pitches out over, and we were able to jump on him pretty early.”
Strasburg, who fell to 1-8 with a 5.25 ERA in 12 road starts this year, was coming off a dominating home performance against Philadelphia last Sunday, striking out 10, walking one and holding the Phillies scoreless for seven innings.
“(The ball) feels good out of the hand,” he said. “I’m just not hitting the spot well enough. I really don’t know how to work on it. Some days I’m hitting the spot and some days I’m a couple inches up, so I’ve got to roll with it, try to miss down instead of miss up.”
Ervin Santana (11-6) held the Nationals scoreless until the sixth, when Asdrubal Cabrera had an RBI single, and Anthony Rendon hit his 15th homer to make it 7-4.
Santana, who allowed four runs, four hits and two walks, struck out four in six innings and won his fourth straight decision.
Wilson Ramos’ fifth homer and Cabrera’s sacrifice fly cut Atlanta’s lead to 7-6 off reliever Anthony Varvaro in the seventh.
Craig Kimbrel earned his 33rd save in 37 chances by striking out Ramos, retiring Kevin Frandsen on a comebacker, and fanning pinch-hitter Danny Espinosa.
The Braves went up 2-0 in the first on Justin Upton’s 20th homer, and they made it 6-0 in the second on B.J. Upton’s eighth shot and Freeman’s 16th.
Tommy La Stella put Atlanta ahead 7-0 in the fifth with his first career home run.
Washington’s Denard Span went 3 for 4 with a run scored and reached base safely for the 34th straight game.
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