Braves turn up heat on Strasburg, Nationals

Braves turn up heat on Strasburg, Nationals

Braves turn up heat on Strasburg, Nationals
ATLANTA -- Playing in record-setting heat is not necessarily an enjoyable activity. But as the Braves learned on Saturday afternoon, the conditions become a little more tolerable when they lead to Stephen Strasburg making an early exit.

After Strasburg lasted just three innings because of heat-related issues, the Braves provided Mike Minor all of the support he needed with a three-run fourth inning that led to a 7-5 win over the Nationals.

"It's always a positive if you're only going to see three innings of him, because he's such a great competitor," Braves second baseman Dan Uggla said. "He's got top-of-the-line stuff. We were able to get into their bullpen and tack on a few more."

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez approached this weekend hoping the humid conditions would serve as a home-field advantage. But his club was not necessarily prepared for this kind of heat. Temperature at first pitch was announced as 104 degrees, and multiple media outlets reported the temperature had reached an all-time Atlanta record 106 degrees.

The on-field temperature was estimated to be closer to 120 degrees.

"I don't know if anybody had the advantage today, but we play here," Gonzalez said. "I know it gets hot in D.C. also, but we play here. This is our field, and we're used to these conditions. Maybe not as extreme, but it shouldn't be a problem for us."

The Braves battled through the elements and produced a go-ahead, three-run third inning before Strasburg made his abrupt exit. The Nationals' ace showed signs of dizziness as he drew a two-out walk against Minor in the top of the fourth inning, and then did not return to pitch in the bottom half of the inning.

"It's tough out there," Strasburg said. "Obviously, I wanted to go out there and compete. I expected a lot more out of myself. By no means was I going out there thinking I wasn't prepared for it. I did everything I could to be ready for it, as far as hydrating. You've just got to learn from it. It's a tough situation."

Strasburg threw 67 pitches while issuing four walks and allowing four hits in his three-inning effort. Each of the three runs he surrendered were tallied after he issued consecutive one-out walks to Michael Bourn and Martin Prado in the third inning. Jason Heyward and Uggla then sandwiched doubles around Freddie Freeman's sacrifice fly.

The Braves tallied four runs against Chien-Ming Wang during the next two innings and owned a 7-2 advantage before encountering some stress. The Nationals chased Minor during a two-run sixth inning and had pulled within two runs before Chad Durbin escaped the bases-loaded jam he created with consecutive two-out walks in the seventh inning.

Once Eric O'Flaherty and Craig Kimbrel both proved perfect in the final two innings, the Braves had sealed their second win in seven tries against the Nationals this year.

"They've been playing good baseball all year," Uggla said. "They've obviously had our number the last 10 or 12 games. They've got great pitching and a great lineup. But so do we. It's time we turn the corner."

One day after getting a chance to rest his mind after hitting .108 over the previous 20 games, Uggla returned to the lineup and delivered the blow that gave the Braves a lead they would not squander. His double down the left-field line served as the most recent of the seven hits he has tallied in 13 career at-bats against Strasburg.

With Wang providing a less-intimidating challenge than Strasburg, the Braves constructed their decisive three-run fourth inning with the assistance of doubles produced by Juan Francisco and Bourn.

Less than 24 hours after committing a costly error and then hitting a game-tying home run that was blemished by a loss, Andrelton Simmons led the charge against Wang. The rookie shortstop delivered a leadoff single and later scored in the fourth, and then plated a run with a two-out fifth-inning single.

"I felt good today," Simmons said. "I felt like I could have hit Strasburg or everybody today. It didn't really matter to me. But we got the win, and that's all that matters.

Minor allowed leadoff doubles that led to runs in the first two innings, and then got Ian Desmond to hit into a double play with the bases loaded to end the third inning. He did not encounter any further trouble until Desmond's sixth-inning double put runners on second and third base with no outs. Both of those runners scored when reliever Kris Medlen entered and allowed consecutive singles to Tyler Moore and Jesus Flores.

The Nationals made things even more interesting when Adam LaRoche chased Medlen with a line-drive double that eluded a leaping Bourn in center field and cut Atlanta's lead to two runs. This prompted the entry of Durbin, who issued two walks to load the bases before getting Flores to ground out.

The Braves lost Friday night's series opener courtesy of the decisive eighth-inning home run Durbin surrendered to Morse. But with some help from the brutal elements, they bounced back with this much-needed victory.

"You don't want to see a guy go down because of that or injury or anything like that, but luckily, with him being so good, they had to go into the bullpen and use some of their other guys," Minor said. "So it kind of worked out for us."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.