It was almost as if Scott Olsen never left.
The Nationals starting pitcher missed over two months thanks to a sore left shoulder – an all-to-familiar occurrence for the 26-year-old. But on Thursday afternoon at Nationals Park he rekindled dormant memories of his strong start from early in this 2010 season.
Olsen tossed six innings against the Atlanta Braves, allowing just two earned runs on five hits. That was enough to lift the Nats to a 5-3 victory and a series win over the first-place Braves.
More Nats» Nats trade closer Matt Capps» Strasburg on the shelf» Nats Postgame - 5-3 win over Braves
“We were able to stay down in the zone with a fastball – both in and out pretty consistently,” Olsen said on MASN afterwards. “It was very good today. Not a whole lot of sliders.”
Olsen hadn’t pitched since May 21 because of that sore left shoulder. It was an ominous sign after he underwent surgery to repair a labral tear in that same left shoulder last July. That limited Olsen to just 11 appearances total in 2009. But his velocity was fine after 14 rehab innings in the minor leagues trying to get back to Washington. He struck out two Atlanta batters and walked just one. Olsen looked like the pitcher who had a 2-2 record and a 3.77 ERA when he went onto the disabled list after a start against the Orioles. His overall record is now 3-2 with a 3.67 ERA in nine starts.
“I think we’re through it,” Olsen said. “They told me last year right after I had surgery it would be probably a year before I felt comfortable and back to the way I felt before. It’s right around a year now and I haven’t felt this good in a while.”
Nats manager Jim Riggleman didn’t want to send Olsen back out to start the seventh inning after rain delayed the game for one hour, 32 minutes after the top of the sixth inning. If even one batter got on base Riggleman was going to his bullpen anyway so he gave that group a clean start when play resumed.
Washington relievers Sean Burnett, Drew Storen and Matt Capps pitched one inning each in relief and held Atlanta off the scoreboard after a one-hour, 32-minute rain delay following the top of the sixth inning.
Wil Nieves broke a 2-2 tie in the fourth inning with a two-run RBI single as the Nats (44-58) took the lead for good. Ian Desmond doubled, hit a solo home run and scored two runs and Michael Morse singled and produced an RBI ground out. Adam Dunn added an insurance run with a solo homer in the eighth inning. That was his team-leading 24th of the season.