If the Washington Nationals are to remain within striking distance of the first-place Atlanta Braves in the NL East, they'll need to do so without one or maybe two of their talented young stars for the time being.
Washington (28-28) dropped four of six this week while Harper sat with bursitis in his left knee. The Nationals placed the outfielder on the disabled list Saturday, hours before they fell 2-1 in 10 innings at Atlanta (33-22).
Harper is batting .287 with 12 homers and 23 RBIs in 44 games."You always do what's best for the player," manager Davey Johnson said."If the club felt that he would be able to come back in three or four or five days, we wouldn't have DL'd him."
Strasburg, meanwhile, is dealing with a slight strain in his right side. The club hopes the right-hander can avoid joining Harper on the DL.
Those injuries pose more obstacles for the Nationals, who have lost 13 of 21 and are 5 1/2 games behind the Braves.
Gio Gonzalez allowed one run and three hits over seven innings Saturday, but Washington matched the Braves with five hits and lost on B.J. Upton's RBI single to even the three-game set"I'm proud of these guys," Gonzalez said. "They worked their tails off. They do it every game. I'm not disappointed at all. They're playing their hearts out."
Hitting .145 heading into Saturday's contest, the slumping Upton was held out of two straight starts by manager Fredi Gonzalez, who even toyed with the idea of asking him to work out his problems during a minor-league assignment.
Upton was 0 for 12 in his previous five games versus Washington, which had its three-game winning streak against the Braves snapped."Everybody knows how hard he's been working to try to get things back on track," Braves pitcher Tim Hudson said. "Hopefully this is just a small sign of things to come. Everybody is really happy for him and it was exciting to see."
Scheduled Atlanta starter Paul Maholm (6-4, 3.74 ERA) is 2-1 in his last four starts but has a 4.94 ERA during that span. After giving up one run in 7 1-3 innings of an 8-3 win over Minnesota on May 22, Maholm yielded five, including four in the first frame, and 10 hits through six of a 7-6, 10-inning win at Toronto on Tuesday.
The left-hander is 2-7 with a 4.64 ERA in 12 starts versus Washington, but has allowed only a two-run homer to Ian Desmond and six other hits over 15 2-3 innings while going 1-1 against the Nationals this season.
Washington counters with right-hander Nathan Karns (0-0, 6.23), who allowed three runs and five hits - including two homers - in 4 1-3 innings of a 9-3 win over Baltimore in his major league debut Tuesday."I thought he handled himself well," Johnson said. "I know he was nervous but I like the way he went after the hitters."
Washington third baseman Ryan Zimmerman had two hits Saturday after he went 0 for 8 in the previous two games.
|May 31, 2013||Stephen Strasburg||Day-to-Day||Strained right lat|
|May 27, 2013||Bryce Harper||15-Day DL||Left knee bursitis|
|May 26, 2013||Bryce Harper||Day-to-Day||Left game - Sore left knee|
|May 24, 2013||Danny Espinosa||Day-to-Day||Broken bone in right wrist|
|May 20, 2013||Ryan Mattheus||15-Day DL||Fractured right hand|
|May 20, 2013||Ryan Mattheus||Day-to-Day||Broken right hand|
|May 29, 2013||Kris Medlen||Day-to-Day||Left game - left upper calf contusion|
|May 18, 2013||Eric O'Flaherty||15-Day DL||Left elbow surgery - out for season|
|May 13, 2013||B.J. Upton||Day-to-Day||Left game - Left shoulder contusion|
|May 12, 2013||Jordan Walden||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|May 12, 2013||Jordan Walden||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|May 05, 2013||Juan Francisco||Day-to-Day||Sprained right ankle|
ATLANTA (AP) -- Fredi Gonzalez doesn't want to discuss the NL East standings.
In fact, one mention of the Braves' big lead in the division made Atlanta's manager groan and complain "I don't even want to talk about that. It's June 2."
Ramiro Pena and B.J. Upton hit home runs, Paul Maholm won his third straight decision and Atlanta beat the Washington Nationals 6-3 on Sunday to stretch their lead in the NL East.
The Braves won two of three from the Nationals and lead Washington by 6.5 games - the biggest advantage for any first-place team in the majors. Atlanta is 15-6 against NL East teams, including 7-3 against the Nationals.
"It's big," said Upton of winning the series against the Nationals. "We know they're a team that's going to be around all year. They have a good ballclub. It's good to win games against a team like that."
The Nationals (28-29) fell below .500 for the first time since they were 13-14 on April 30. It may seem early in the season to Atlanta's Gonzalez, but Washington's Adam LaRoche said it's late for the Nationals to be scuffling around .500.
"We deserve to be where we're at right now," LaRoche said. "We've played like crap. And we're still not in awful shape.
"That only goes so far. We're pretty deep into the season, so we've got to get it going or we won't be there at the end. I don't sense any panic, anybody stressing over it, but it'd be nice to pick it up."
Washington manager Davey Johnson said the team's sagging offense could get a lift as outfielder Jayson Werth is expected to come off the 15-day disabled list for Tuesday's start of a home series against the Mets.
"There's still plenty of time," Johnson said. "We can right the ship and get things going in the right direction. We've still got plenty of time.
"The offense is just sputtering a little bit. It'll be good to get Jayson back. Our guys are certainly capable. They've just got to start doing it. That's all. It's that simple."
Ian Desmond hit a homer for Washington in the sixth inning to cut Atlanta's lead to 4-3. Freddie Freeman answered with a bases-loaded, two-run double in the bottom of the inning.
Paul Maholm (7-4) allowed three runs, two earned, on five hits in six innings. Craig Kimbrel pitched a perfect ninth for his 17th save.
Washington rookie Nathan Karns (0-1) gave up four runs, three earned, on seven hits in 4 2-3 innings. Karns allowed two homers. He has given up four homers in his two starts.
Upton, who had the game-winning hit in the Braves' 2-1 win over the Nationals in 10 innings on Saturday night, hit a second-inning homer off Karns to give Atlanta a 3-2 lead.
The two-game surge was much-needed for Upton, who has RBIs in back-to-back games for only the second time this season.
"Good for him," Gonzalez said. "His at-bats keep getting better and better and better. That's the B.J. Upton that we want to see. It's good that he's coming along.
"Hopefully he'll run off 10 or 12 games like this."
The Braves led 2-0 before Karns recorded an out. Ryan Zimmerman 's 10th error on a wild throw to first allowed Andrelton Simmons to reach base. Pena hit Karns' next pitch about five rows deep into the right-field seats for his third homer.
Washington tied the game with two runs in the second. LaRoche doubled and moved to third on Ian Desmond 's bunt single. Tyler Moore 's single to left field drove in LaRoche. With two outs, Karns hit a grounder to Freeman at first base. Maholm dropped Freeman's toss to first base for an error as Desmond scored.
Karns was pulled after giving up a single to Justin Upton and a two-out walk to Evan Gattis in the fifth. Brian McCann 's single off Zack Duke drove in Upton for a 4-2 lead.
Desmond's seventh homer cut the lead to 4-3 in the sixth before Freeman's bases-loaded double off Duke in the bottom of the inning pushed the lead to three runs.
Freeman's drive hit the yellow line on the top of the left-field wall. Three umpires left the field for a video review to confirm the on-field ruling the hit was a double.
"I blame it on the wind," Freeman said with a smile. "It's a big park. C'mon guys, move the fences in."
Washington right-hander Erik Davis , recalled from Triple-A Syracuse on Saturday, pitched 1 2-3 perfect innings in his major league debut.
NOTES: The Braves held out slumping right fielder Jason Heyward , who struck out in each of his three at-bats on Saturday night, leaving his batting average at .142. Justin Upton moved to right field and Gattis started in left field. ... B.J. Upton made back-to-back starts for the first time since May 21-22. ... The Braves open a three-game series against Pittsburgh on Monday night as RHP Kris Medlen , still looking for his second win, faces RHP A.J. Burnett. The Nationals, off on Monday, return home to open a series against the Mets on Tuesday night when RHP Jordan Zimmermann faces RHP Jeremy Hefner .