After getting relatively good news before Wednesday's game about the health of phenom Stephen Strasburg's throwing shoulder, the Nationals had the unpleasant experience of facing Atlanta's Tim Hudson.
The Braves starter pitched 7 2/3 strong innings against the Nats, allowing seven hits and just one walk. Hudson (11-5, 2.40 ERA) also struck out seven batters.
According to Nats first baseman Adam Dunn, Hudson changed his game plan on Wednesday after usually dominating Washington with offspeed pitches. This time his sinker was especially effective so Hudson stuck with it. He induced 11 ground-ball outs to go with those seven strikeouts. In his career against the Nats, Hudson entered the game 9-1 in 15 starts with a 1.51 ERA.
Beanballs blogNats Postgame - 3-1 loss to Braves
“You’re going against Tim Hudson,” said Nats outfielder Willie Harris, who struck out three times. “You have to tip your cap to him.”
Mike Morse’s RBI single in the fifth was the lone Nats’ run. Atlanta took an early lead with two runs in the first inning. Chipper Jones had a sacrifice fly and an RBI single.
Washington starter Livan Hernandez (7-7, 3.22 ERA) pitched a complete game his last time out against Cincinnati. This time he didn’t make it out of the fifth inning. Hernandez allowed six hits and two walks and sat at 85 pitches with one out and the bases loaded in the fifth. That was enough for manager Jim Riggleman, who called on his bullpen to escape the jam. Part of his reasoning was the batters Atlanta was sending to the plate in that situation and how well Hudson was pitching.
“I don’t know the history for a long period, but I know since I’ve seen him here [Hudson] has been really good,” Riggleman said. “We see him a lot in [the National League East]. We see him over and over in the course of one year...He always seems to go deep in the game against us. But the more we see him we’ll just have to get more information on him and get him out of there quicker.”
So Riggleman clearly needed the bullpen to keep the score where it was at 3-1. And his relief corps did just that. Doug Slaten retired Braves cleanup batter Brian McCann and Tyler Clippard got Matt Diaz on a fly ball. In all, Washington’s bullpen tossed 4 2/3 scoreless innings to keep the Nats close. Clippard struck out three batters in just 1 1/3 innings and Joel Peralta added another fine outing to his resume with three scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and a walk with three strikeouts.
“[Peralta’s] been outstanding, gave us three innings there,” Riggleman said. “But the whole bullpen did a great job. They’ve done a pretty good job all year really.”