The Nationals’ early struggles against the Braves

The ripple effects of Monday’s 3-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves could turn out to be worse than just another loss early in the season to a heated division rival. Stephen Strasburg experienced forearm tightness that he refused to admit was a factor in his command issues. Jayson Werth fouled a ball of his left ankle and was already dealing with hamstring cramping. Time, however, will determine the severity of both.

For now, the Nationals were saddled with a fourth straight loss to the Braves, outscored by 21-7. Of the four games between the two teams this season, this was the closest contest. Strasburg’s control issues doomed him. Tyler Clippard walked the leadoff batter in the seventh, which would eventually score the winning run. Two baserunning miscues — Denard Span picked off at first in the first inning and Chad Tracy caught too far off second in the second — cost the Nationals at least one run. The offense failed to chase rookie starter Julio Teheran from the game after having him on the ropes in the second inning.

“We definitely feel that we can play better,” Kurt Suzuki said. “That’s a good team over there but we feel that we’re better than what we’ve been showing. We just have to go, shake it off and on to the next one and get ready for tomorrow.”

“We just haven’t played very good against them,” Werth added. “Kind of beat ourselves. And they’ve played good. They’ve been hot. Not as they were when we played them at home but they’ve played good enough to win the games. We’ve played bad enough to lose. It’ll turn around. I still believe in our club and think we got the best team. Time will tell.”

In four games against the Braves, the Nationals have walked 21 batters, committed three errors, stranded 20 base runners and hit 6 for 21 with runners in scoring position. The Nationals understand that it’s still only April, the first month of the season, and three more games remain against the Braves this week and 15 overall for the rest of the season. They took the season series last season but have yet to show that same all-around clean play against the Braves yet this season.

“It’s a tough loss, don’t get me wrong,” Tyler Clippard said. “It’s frustrating. They’ve beaten us four out of the four games we’ve played them. They’re at the top of our division. It’s not good to get a slow start off like that, especially against a division rival. But at the end of the day, it’s still April. We still feel confident as a ballclub. I know I do and I think everybody else does. It’s just one of those things. You’ve just got to wake up tomorrow and know we’ve got to win the next two games, or however many games we’ve got against them. And by Thursday, all is good.”

FROM THE POST

Stephen Strasburg gets off to another shaky start, and deals with forearm tightness in a 3-2 loss to the Braves.

FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL

Jayson Werth fouls ball off ankle, dealing with hamstring cramping

Stephen Strasburg dealing with forearm tightness

Rafael Soriano invites Nationals teammates to his Atlanta house for dinner

Wilson Ramos returns; Davey Johnson’s plans for the catchers

Anthony Rendon growing more comfortable in the majors

The Nationals’ next crack at the now-reeling Braves starts tonight

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Durham 5, Syracuse 0: In his second start of the season, Chris Young allowed five runs, four earned, on eight hits over 5 2/3 innings. He walked two and struck out two. J.C. Romero walked one and allowed a hit in 1 1/3 scoreless innings of relief. Jeff Mandel pitched a perfect final two innings. Chris Marrero and Chris Rahl collected two hits each.

New Britain 16, Harrisburg 8: Brian Goodwin went 3 for 5 with a triple. Josh Johnson and Jerad Head added two hits. Sandy Leon drove in two runs and Justin Bloxom went 3 for 4 with a walk. Starter Paul Demny allowed six runs on eight hits over 3 1/3 innings.

Potomac was postponed.

Hagerstown was postponed.

James Wagner joined the Post in August 2010 and, prior to covering the Nationals, covered high school sports across the region.
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James Wagner · April 30, 2013