WASHINGTON — Even though Stephen Strasburg is on a three-game winning streak, his most recent starts hadn't been especially smooth. On Saturday, he threw freely and easily, pitching four-hit ball for seven sharp innings to help lead the Washington Nationals over the Atlanta Braves 2-0.
Strasburg (6-1) completed seven shutout innings for the first time in his major league career. He opened the game with a flourish, striking out the first four Braves batters.
Strasburg struck out nine, walked none and threw 90 pitches. Twice he gave up singles and then induced double-play grounders.
The right-hander allowed multiple baserunners just once — in the third when Jose Constanza doubled and Michael Bourn singled with one out.
"I just expected a little bit too much out of myself and it was kind of getting me away from what I was trying to do, what I wanted to do out there. Today was huge for me to go out there and keep it simple," Strasburg said.
In his last two starts, both wins, he was pulled after five innings, but Strasburg was so economical with this pitches that manager Davey Johnson thought he could have gone longer.
"He had another inning or two in him," Johnson said.
Less than two years removed from Tommy John surgery, Strasburg is on a strict innings limit, and Johnson is cutting them when he can.
Strasburg would have liked to pitch longer.
"I felt like I was getting stronger as the game went on, so it's tough, but it's his call," Strasburg said.
"He's back. I don't think he ever left. In his mind, he left," Johnson said.
Atlanta second baseman Dan Uggla struck out twice and grounded into a double play against Strasburg. In his previous at-bats against him, Uggla was 6 for 8 with two home runs and seven RBIs.
"He was electric. He's always electric, but today he was hitting his spots, had his curve ball going, his changeup was nasty," Uggla said.
Johnson said he heard Uggla grousing about Strasburg's stuff, but he couldn't repeat what he said.
"It was obvious he wasn't going to give him anything today," Johnson said.
Sean Burnett gave up two singles in a scoreless eighth and Tyler Clippard pitched a perfect ninth for his fourth save in fifth chances.
Brandon Beachy (5-4) allowed just three hits in 6 1-3 innings. He has lost three straight decisions and Atlanta has dropped nine of 11.
"Can't make mistakes in a game like that and I made far too many of them. I put people on and they're going to score," Beachy said.
"I just wasn't locating my fastball again today which leads to me throwing way too many pitches. Bad things happen.
The game was scoreless when Jesus Flores led off the fifth by hitting a drive into the left-field bullpen for his second home run of the year.
In the seventh, Beachy was pulled with one out after Danny Espinosa walked. Espinosa stole second and Chad Durbin walked Flores.
Both runners moved up on a wild pitch from Jonny Venters that hit catcher Brian McCann, forcing him to leave with a bruise near his left knee. McCann said he had to leave because he couldn't get down on his knees.
Espinosa scored on pinch-hitter Xavier Nady's double to right.