07/25/10 6:31 PM ET
Young stars lead Braves into Strasburg's house
By Bailey Stephens / MLB.com
The Braves, however, will counter with their own young gun, Tommy Hanson, in a battle of top young arms in the division.
Strasburg lost his first start against division-leading Atlanta earlier this season, but he has won three consecutive outings, posting a 2.04 ERA over that span. But the Braves didn't even need to see anything more than his last start against them to know he was a special talent.
"He's as advertised," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He's dynamite. He's something really good for the game of baseball, something that special. He's got maybe the best changeup for a first-year player that I've ever seen. Everybody talks about his fastball, but his changeup goes straight down at 90 or 91 mph. It looks like some of the guys' best heaters going straight down."
Several of Strasburg's losses earlier in the season resulted from a lack of run support, something the Nats have corrected in his last few starts, a trend they are determined to continue.
"When Strasburg pitches, we elevate our game. We have to, because he is our horse," outfielder Willie Harris said. "Early in the year, we were not scoring runs for him. We have to score runs for him, and we know he is going to keep it right there."
But the Braves have bested the young right-hander once this year and look to do so again under Hanson. The Braves' 24-year-old righty has also gotten stronger in his last few outings after a course correction around the midseason mark. He allowed just two runs in 6 1/3 innings in his last start against the Padres, but took a no-decision.
Hanson's struggles this year have been control related, seen in his occasional struggles to locate his fastball and his Major League-leading 13 hit batsmen. Facing Washington, a team Hanson has pitched well against in his career (2-0, 2.94 ERA), could be the boon he needs to get fully back on the track that saw him finish third in last season's NL Rookie of the Year voting.
Braves: McCann carrying his weight
Brian McCann continued his torrid hitting at the dish, driving in another run on Sunday afternoon. McCann now has 14 RBIs and three homers in his last 10 games. Aside from McCann, though, the Braves are leaving an awful lot of runners on base of late. It came back to haunt them in Sunday's loss, as they left a whopping 11 men on and were 3-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
Nationals: Fielding proving frustrating
Defensive breakdowns continue to plague the Nationals' efforts. Ian Desmond and Harris both committed errors Sunday, giving the club a league-leading 80 on the season. Harris' first error of the year came at a costly time, allowing the Brewers to jump on top early. Starting from behind is becoming a disturbing trend for Washington, which has seen its opponent take the lead first in 20 of its last 23 games.
Nats right-hander J.D. Martin will return to Washington on Sunday night to find out on Monday how serious his bulging disc issue might be. The team hasn't decided who might get Martin's start on Friday. ... The Braves have gone just 18-17 against NL East opponents to date, their worst record against any division.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.