Nationals hope hits keep coming against Braves


The visiting Washington Nationals, who scored 11 runs on Tuesday, will try to continue their sudden offensive surge when they face the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night.

The Nationals had scored 12 runs over their previous seven games, but put 11 on the board on Tuesday, when they ended a five-game losing streak by beating the Braves 11-6. Their 14-hit outburst included home runs from Ryan Zimmerman and Juan Soto.

“They’re playing hard, so it’s a lot of fun when they have a game like this,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said.

But the Nationals have more pitching questions to answer after starter Stephen Strasburg had the leave the game with an injury after 1 1/3 innings. Strasburg, making his third start since missing over a month with right shoulder soreness, left after being hit in the glove hand by a sharp comebacker. But the right-hander seemed uncomfortable all night, suffered from low velocity and threw mostly curveballs and changeups and the problem was with his neck or shoulder, not his hand.

Strasburg will have an MRI on Wednesday.

“He tried to pitch through it, but I told Paul (Lessard, Nationals athletic trainer) I don’t want that. Let’s go get him out and see what’s wrong wit him,” Martinez said. “He kept moving his neck and said he felt stiff but wanted to pitch through it.

“(In the second inning) they hit a line drive at him and at that point it was not there. I said, ‘Let’s go get him.’ He waved us off, but I’ve got to be smart. We’ve still got a lot of baseball and we need him healthy.”

The starting pitchers on Wednesday will be Atlanta’s Drew Smyly (2-3, 5.95 ERA) against Washington’s Jon Lester (0-2, 4.91).

Smyly will make his ninth start. The left-hander was hammered in his last outing against Boston on May 26, allowing seven runs in 5 1/3 innings. It ended a stretch of three straight quality starts that saw him allow only four earned runs in 18 innings.

“I was very efficient with my pitch count, wasn’t walking anybody,” Smyly said. “It’s pretty hard to give up five hits and one walk and seven earned runs, but I accomplished that. No, I’m not happy with the results.”

Smyly has made two starts against the Nationals this season, going 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA. He beat Washington on May 6, allowing only one run (unearned) in six innings. He is 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA in four career appearances, three starts, against Washington.

Lester, a fellow left-hander, will make his seventh start this season. He worked the second game of the May 29 doubleheader against Milwaukee, when he pitched four innings and allowed one run. He will be working on three days rest for the first time this season.

Lester has faced the Braves once this season, losing to them on May 6 while allowing three runs in five innings. He is 7-3 with a 2.51 ERA in 12 career starts against Atlanta.

The Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr. was 3-for-4, scored four runs and drove in two on Tuesday with a double and his 17th home run. Acuna has hit safely in five straight games, going 9-for-21 (.429) with two homers.

–Field Level Media



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