WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- In a baseball game between skilled pitchers like the Nationals' Stephen Strasburg and the Braves' Brandon Beachy, one errant throw can lose you a contest.
For Beachy, that lone mistake came in the bottom of the fifth inning, against Jesus Flores -- possibly the least imposing bat in Washington's lineup.
Flores launched a sinker up in the zone into the Braves bullpen, clearing the 377 mark in left center field. An insurance RBI double by pinch hitter Xavier Nady in the seventh trickled to the wall in right field, and was all the Nationals would need against Atlanta. The Nationals 2-0 win gives the team a one game lead over the New York Mets in the NL East.
"They've got a great ball club," Washington manager Davey Johnson said of the Atlanta Braves (28-25). "But so do we. So it's fun," Johnson said with his super-sized grin.
*Strasburg's line: 7 IP, 9 K's, 4 H, 0 BB.
I would call this outing against the Braves Strasburg's second best of the season -- outside of the 14 K performance against Pittsburgh. According to an Adam Kilgore tweet, Saturday was the first time Strasburg has ever thrown seven innings of shutout ball. It was also the first time he didn't walk a single batter in a game since a late April start against the Dodgers. He had total command, in large part due to a shift in his mentality.
"I've expected a little too much out of myself. Kind of
getting away from what I was trying to do...Today was huge for me," Strasburg said regarding his last few so-so starts.
*Mike Morse goes mum in his season debut
Even from the pretty much blimp location of the Nats press box, it was easy to notice Morse's 6-foot-5, 230 pound frame back in action. The slugger produced a boring four ground outs, but there's little doubt he will get back into the swing of things. Morse said he felt more comfortable in each at-bat. He joked about his debut afterwards.
"I was expecting 4-for-4, four home runs, you know, a couple grand slams. But we won, so. Heck, I'll ground out tomorrow four times if we win," said Morse about his 2012 debut.
*Tyler Clippard seems to be the ninth inning guy now
Clippard struck out Dave Ross and Dan Uggla in the ninth inning, earning his fourth straight save in as many appearances. Clippard hasn't allowed a run since May 16 against the Pirates and hasn't allowed a hit since May 18 against the Orioles. His mid-April funk seems light years ago.
"I try to approach each outing the same. No matter what role I'm in. Kind of block out all the extra stuff. [The 9th inning] is fun for me. You feed off the crowd a little bit more. A little more adrenaline. For some it might hinder them; for me it helps me bare down and focus a little more," Clippard said about his evolving role late in the game.