The last time he took the mound, Stephen Strasburg looked like a prodigy again.
He'll probably have to be sensational once more for Washington to have a chance of snapping its skid versus Atlanta.
Strasburg looks to build on his first career shutout and help the Nationals end their six-game slide against the Braves on Saturday night at Turner Field.
Justin Upton 's walk-off homer in the 10th inning Friday gave the Braves (75-47) their 18th win in 20 games, extending their NL East lead on the Nationals (59-62) to 15 1/2 games.
"There's a lot of baseball to be played," said Upton, who leads the NL with seven home runs in August. "Our lead is pretty big right now, but crazier things have happened in baseball."
Upton is just 3 for 15 with five strikeouts against Strasburg (6-9, 2.83 ERA), who pushed past a bad bullpen session and a tweaked groin to go the distance for the first time in the majors on Sunday. He struck out 10, allowing just a walk and four hits in a 6-0 win over Philadelphia.
"Honestly, I didn't feel good at all. I didn't really have good command in the bullpen," said Strasburg, who only needed 99 pitches. "When that's happened in the past, I feel like I would just try to jam it down their throat and throw it as hard as I can. I kind of learned that really didn't get much accomplished."
Strasburg has a 2.37 ERA in five starts since the All-Star break, but Sunday's was his first win.
Efficiency hasn't led to a drop in strikeouts. After averaging 9.06 strikeouts per nine innings through his first 18 starts in 2013, Strasburg has averaged 10.42 while lasting at least seven innings in his last five outings.
Strasburg has a 2.14 ERA in four starts against Atlanta this season, but he's 0-1. The Nationals have totaled 28 runs while going 3-11 in the season series.
Opposing Strasburg will be another talented 25-year-old in Mike Minor (12-5, 2.87), who's 4-1 with a 2.23 ERA in his last seven starts. After allowing five total home runs in his last two June starts and first outing in July, he has allowed just one since - going 25 consecutive innings without one heading into Saturday.
Minor's most recent start was the worst of his impressive stretch. He gave up four runs and six hits over seven innings Sunday against Miami in a 9-4 win.
The left-hander has faced the Nationals just once this season, but walks have generally been an issue in previous meetings. He's walked 17 in 37 2-3 career innings versus Atlanta, a far cry from his 1.83 walks per nine innings rate in 2013 that's among the NL's best.
Minor's emergence has solidified the front-end of a Braves rotation that's missing Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm , but Atlanta's situation at second base is becoming dire. The Braves found out Friday that Tyler Pastornicky would miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL just days after putting Dan Uggla on the 15-day disabled list as he has corrective eye surgery.
Paul Janish and Phil Gosselin are the options in the interim.
"I'm almost positive (general manager) Frank (Wren) is out there looking through the waiver wire," manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
Three of the four times Bryce Harper has been hit by a pitch this season have come against the Braves, including twice Friday. On August 6, a Harper beaning led to both benches emptying.
|August 13, 2013||Wilson Ramos||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained left hamstring|
|August 11, 2013||Jayson Werth||Day-to-Day||Right knee|
|August 01, 2013||Ross Ohlendorf||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|July 24, 2013||Ian Desmond||Day-to-Day||Blister|
|July 24, 2013||Bryce Harper||Day-to-Day||Left knee soreness|
|July 04, 2013||Ross Detwiler||60-Day DL||Lower back strain|
|August 15, 2013||Tyler Pastornicky||15-Day DL||Torn left ACL|
|August 13, 2013||Dan Uggla||15-Day DL||Eye surgery|
|August 06, 2013||Jason Heyward||Day-to-Day||Strained neck|
|July 29, 2013||Reed Johnson||15-Day DL||Left knee tendinitis|
|July 26, 2013||Gerald Laird||15-Day DL||Kidney stone|
|July 26, 2013||Gerald Laird||15-Day DL||Kidney stone|
ATLANTA (AP) -- The Nationals celebrated Adam LaRoche 's 15th-inning homer that gave Washington an 8-7 win over the Atlanta Braves on Saturday night.
The team also was left with lingering concerns about Stephen Strasburg 's ejection and closer Rafael Soriano 's blown save.
Strasburg was tossed in the second inning. He hit Justin Upton with a pitch in the first and was tossed after throwing two straight pitches behind Andrelton Simmons ' back.
The Nationals insisted Strasburg wasn't trying to hit Simmons, but instead was unable to regain his control after walking Jordan Schafer on four pitches to open the second.
"He's still kind of learning to deal with the adversities of pitching up here," said Nationals manager Davey Johnson, who also was ejected by plate umpire Marvin Hudson when he argued in defense of Strasburg.
"When he went back out in the second inning, I've never seen his command so bad," Johnson said. "He couldn't come close to the first hitter he faced. Then he threw a curve ball that was eight feet outside and then a couple balls that were behind the hitter. It didn't look like he was trying to hit (Simmons). He couldn't find the strike zone."
Entering the game, Strasburg had thrown three wild pitches in 146 1-3 innings. He doubled that total by unleashing three consecutive wild pitches, including the two behind Simmons' back.
When Johnson and Strasburg were in the clubhouse after being tossed, Johnson said he immediately sought to find out if his ace was hurt.
"The first thing I said when we were both in here was `Are you hurt? Is something wrong with you?"' Johnson said. "He said `No. I'm just out of sorts."'
The Nationals loaded the bases and scored two runs in each of the first two innings. On a night when the game-time temperature was 66 degrees, Strasburg said he "just got a little cold. I was just missing spots."
Asked if it was a mechanical problem, Strasburg said "I can't really explain it. I just didn't really feel good out there and couldn't hit the spot."
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said it was "just weird" to see Strasburg's suddenly unable to throw strikes. He said he didn't think Strasburg was trying to hit Simmons.
"I don't know if there's something wrong with him physically, because it just didn't look right," Gonzalez said. "It didn't look right."
LaRoche lifted a high fly ball into the right-field seats for this 18th homer off Kris Medlen (10-11), who was pressed into service after Atlanta exhausted its bullpen.
The game lasted 5 hours, 29 minutes.
Jason Heyward hit two homers, including a two-run shot in the ninth as Soriano blew a 7-5 lead.
Craig Stammen (6-5) allowed no hits in three scoreless innings, striking out five with one walk. Dan Haren pitched the 15th for his first career save.
Haren said he threw 30 to 35 pitches in his regular bullpen session before the game, but didn't hesitate to volunteer for the rare relief appearance.
"We needed a game like this," Haren said.
Atlanta's Brian McCann had three hits, including a two-run homer. Freddie Freeman also homered for the Braves. Ryan Zimmerman hit a homer for Washington.
Each team used all its relievers.
Medlen, scheduled to start Tuesday at the Mets, made his first relief appearance of the season as Atlanta's ninth pitcher of the night.
Soriano suffered his sixth blown save. Heyward's second homer of the game, a two-run shot to right-center with two outs in the ninth, sent the game to extra innings.
Braves pitchers hit Bryce Harper with two pitches in Atlanta's win on Friday night, leaving the outfielder bruised and unable to start on Saturday night.
That set the stage for Strasburg.
Strasburg hit Upton in the first inning one pitch after Heyward's leadoff home run. The pitch hit Upton's backside, and he quickly ran to first.
Asked if he meant to hit Upton, Strasburg said "I'm not going to get into that."
But the answer seemed clear.
"Well after somebody goes deep and you hit him in the rear end, I don't think it's a big deal," Johnson said. "I don't know if he did it on purpose or not."
The second-inning meltdown by Strasburg was more difficult to figure out.
The drama left Braves fans howling, but no players emerged from either dugout. There were no additional incidents in the game.
There were tensions between the teams that carried over from the Braves' three-game sweep at Washington on Aug. 5-7. Both benches emptied when Harper was hit by a Julio Teheran pitch in the second game of the series.
Tanner Roark dominated the Braves after taking over for Strasburg. Roark allowed only one hit in four scoreless innings. He had a run-scoring double in the fifth for his first major league hit and RBI.
Mike Minor allowed four runs in only 1 2-3 innings, the shortest of his 78 career starts.
Minor gave up bases-loaded, two-run singles to Wilson Ramos in the first and Jayson Werth in the second.
Harper was in Johnson's original lineup, but was held out with bruised triceps until entering the game as a defensive replacement in the ninth.
Strasburg gave up two runs and two hits, two walks and one hit batter in one-plus inning. Like Minor, he also had the shortest start of his career.
Werth doubled off Luis Ayala in the sixth and scored on a single by Wilson Ramos .
NOTES: Washington's Scott Hairston was ejected by Hudson in the ninth for arguing a called third strike. ... The Nationals placed RHP Taylor Jordan on the 15-day DL with a lower back strain. Tyler Moore was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse and had two hits while starting at first base. ... The Braves signed IF Tyler Greene to a minor league contract. Greene, released by the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday, was assigned to Triple-A Gwinnett. ... 2B Dan Uggla , who had corrective eye surgery on Friday, said a test Saturday showed his vision at 20-15. He expects to be ready to play when eligible to come off the 15-day DL on Aug. 28. ... The series concludes on Sunday when Nationals LHP Gio Gonzalez faces Atlanta's Julio Teheran .