WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- 2013's initial series with the Atlanta Braves has left a sour taste in the mouths of the Washington Nationals. You won't see many 3-1 victories as authoritative as the Braves' on Saturday.
Another critical throwing error from the usual stalwart third baseman Ryan Zimmerman in the third inning, led to an immediate two-run homer from Braves rookie Evan Gattis, and the eventual unraveling of Stephen Strasburg.
On Friday night the Nationals bullpen choked away a memorable outing from fifth starter Ross Detwiler to an eventual 6-4 loss in 10 innings. Because of three relievers shaky performance -- Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen and Craig Stammen -- Washington was counting on its perennial ace to shutdown the Braves, or at least stop the bleeding. That didn't exactly happen.
In six innings of work Strasburg didn't lose this game for Washington, but he didn't win it either. The red-hot Braves worked the righty deep into counts (112 pitches), dinking and dunking their way through the order at a rapid pace. Strasburg's seven strikeouts were the most he's hurled this season, but even he admitted "it just wasn't my day."
Washington's bats can also be held at fault. Hitless afternoons from Bryce Harper, Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond and Wilson Ramos (who injured his hamstring and may be headed to the DL) sampled the Nationals worst day at the plate since the 15-0 shellacking in Cincinnati. Credit is due to the command and control of Atlanta starter Tim Hudson -- seven innings, four hits allowed on just 90 pitches. Danny Espinosa's line drive home run in the fifth inning was merely a flicker of hope instead of the bonfire the Nationals offense was in dire need of.
Two games into this momentous April series, it's been evident why the Braves are the best team so far in baseball. If their opponent makes a mistake, Atlanta feasts like buzzards on roadkill. Friday it was the five walks from the Nats perfunctory bullpen. Saturday it was Zimmerman's errant throw to first base.
What will it be Sunday? Or can Gio Gonzalez maintain his Cy Young status and keep the Braves at bay. Being swept at home is enough to dampen some of the early season confidence, even with the Marlins and Mets looming on the schedule.