WASHINGTON -- Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg delivered five scoreless innings Tuesday in his first start since May 29, leaving with a three-run lead in what became a 3-1 victory over the Braves at Nationals Park.
Activated before the game, Strasburg -- who threw 94 pitches -- allowed four hits and one walk and struck out six, the most since he struck out seven Padres on May 17.
"It's good to get back out there. Obviously, I've been working real hard to get things in the right direction. I was able to keep the lead," Strasburg said. "I want to go out there and execute pitches, pitch my game. I talked to a lot of guys in the clubhouse while I was away. It really shed some light into what my strengths and weaknesses are. I really just tried to pitch to my strengths."
Pitching to his strengths meant that he was more aggressive with the fastball.
"I wanted them to swing at the fastball," Strasburg said. "They did do a good job of working out the count, fighting pitches off. That's not something that I'm going to go out there and worry about. I'm just going to go out there and make them hit the fastball."
With Strasburg going strong, Washington's starters have gone 26 1/3 innings without allowing a run.
For Nationals manager Matt Williams, it was important Strasburg felt confident when he walked on the mound and let his pitches fly without restrictions.
Secondly, it was important for Strasburg to throw pitches with conviction. Williams also said that he wanted Strasburg to have peace of mind and compete.
Strasburg did just that against Atlanta. His best inning was the third, when he struck out two and got Cameron Maybin to ground out.
The Braves didn't have a runner in scoring position until the fifth when Eury Perez doubled over the head of left fielder Michael Taylor. After Strasburg walked counterpart Alex Wood, Williams had Felipe Rivero warm up, but kept Strasburg in the game. Strasburg struck out Jace Peterson, while Maybin grounded out to second baseman Danny Espinosa to end the threat.
"It looked like [Strasburg] was a little more confident out there," center fielder Denard Span said. "Tonight, he looked different. He was keeping hitters off balance. He kept me off guard on what was coming out of his hand. ... He pounded the strike zone, went after hitters and was aggressive, I thought."
Williams wasn't surprised to see Strasburg get through the fifth, saying the righty knows how to get out of innings. Strasburg reached back and used his fastball to finish his last inning. His fastball was consistently clocked at 97 mph.
"Again, five innings of good baseball for us tonight," Williams said.