MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Stras sharp in return as Nats top Braves

Stras sharp in return as Nats top Braves

WASHINGTON -- Right-hander Stephen Strasburg pitched five scoreless innings in his return as the Nationals defeated the Braves, 3-1, in Tuesday night's series opener at Nationals Park.

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In his first game since May 29, Strasburg waited out a two-hour, 12-minute weather delay, then held Atlanta to four hits and one walk while striking out six to pick up his fourth victory.

"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 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."

Braves left-hander Alex Wood wasn't bad either, lasting seven innings and allowing three runs on 10 hits, but losing his fifth game.

Cameron Maybin drove in Atlanta's only run when he homered off left-hander Matt Thornton in the eighth.

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With their fourth consecutive victory, the Nats improved to 38-33, moving 2 1/2 games ahead of the Mets, while the third-place Braves had their three-game win streak snapped and fell three games back.

"It's disappointing," Wood said. "You come in here with first place on the line. We battled from start to finish."

Wood's seven strong frames

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Strasburg is back: Activated hours before the game, Strasburg was dealing and keeping the Braves off balance. Of his 94 pitches, 64 were strikes. With Strasburg going strong, the Nationals' starters have gone 26 1/3 innings without allowing a run.

"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." More >

Strasburg on Nationals' 3-1 win

Shaky defense: Wood had only himself to blame when he surrendered a Span double and Anthony Rendon's RBI single before recording his first out. But he didn't get much help from his defense a short time later. Michael Taylor reached second base and later scored after Maybin bobbled his leadoff single in the third inning. Taylor might not have had a chance to deliver an RBI single in the fourth had second baseman Jace Peterson been quick enough to turn a double play after third baseman Juan Uribe fielded Danny Espinosa's grounder and threw to second.

Taylor reaches second on error

"[Those innings] could have been a lot worse too," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "You've got to give Woody a lot of credit because they didn't put a crooked number up there, it was just a single run." More >

Taylor staying hot at the plate: Taylor has been swinging a hot bat, going 8-for-19 (.421) with two RBIs in his past five games to raise his batting average to .249. The biggest hit came in the fourth, when his RBI single sent Danny Espinosa home to make it 2-0. It turned out to be the game-winning hit.

Taylor's RBI single

"He is finding his way as a big leaguer," manager Matt Williams said about Taylor. "He is getting there, He is doing fine and he is going to play well, provide us great defense in the outfield. He can move to center if Denard needs a day. He provides great defense in center field for us, too."

Maybin's missed opportunities: Maybin provided the Braves their only run with his eighth-inning homer. But the Braves' center fielder, who has just seven hits in his past 35-at-bats, also popped out behind the plate to end the game after Nationals closer Drew Storen loaded the bases in the ninth. After Eury Perez doubled and Wood walked with one out in the fifth, Maybin stranded two other runners with an inning-ending groundout against Strasburg.

Maybin's solo home run

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Tuesday night marked just the third time in 49 career starts that Wood surrendered as many as 10 hits. Four of the 10 hits were singles by Rendon, who is 12-for-17 against the Atlanta southpaw. More >

Rendon's four-hit game

UNREPEATED HISTORY
The Braves were hoping history would repeat itself when the Nationals brought former Atlanta reliever David Carpenter in to face Juan Uribe with two on and two out in the eighth. But Uribe left the deficit at two runs when he flew out to right field. This marked the first matchup between the two since Uribe, then with the Dodgers, hit a game-winning homer off Carpenter in the eighth inning of the decisive Game 4 of the 2013 National League Division Series.

Carpenter escapes jam

WHAT'S NEXT
Braves: Right-hander Shelby Miller will take the mound when Atlanta and Washington resume the three-game series Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Miller has posted a 0.73 ERA in four career starts against the Nationals, but he has not faced them this season.

Nationals: Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann looks to halt his three-game losing streak Wednesday at Nationals Park. Facing the Braves for the third time this season, he's 1-0 with a 4.15 ERA against them.

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Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.