Starter Tom Gorzelanny wasn’t sure exactly what happened on the play in the top of the third inning, but the twinge in his right ankle, well there was no mistaking that. Gorzelanny was rounding third on Roger Bernadina’s triple, and an off-target throw by Atlanta second baseman Dan Uggla, the cutoff man, managed to reach catcher Brian McCann right about the same time as the Nationals starter.

Gorzelanny collided with McCann a few steps before the plate, and when the ball came loose, he and Bernadina scored the first two runs in a back-and-forth game Washington lost, 9-8, at Turner Field. Immediately after impact, Gorzelanny came up limping and gingerly walked back to the dugout favoring his right foot.

“As soon as I hit the plate and walked on it, it didn’t feel very good,” Gorzelanny said when asked if he felt discomfort right away.

Gorzelanny came out to the mound in the home half of the third to test his ankle, but after several practice throws, he along with Manager Davey Johnson, pitching coach Steve McCatty and trainer Lee Kuntz determined the left-hander was done for the afternoon.

After a rough first inning in which he allowed two runs and walked three, he got back on track in the second by retiring the side in order, including a pair of strikeouts. That upswing made it all the more frustrating that he had to remove himself from the game and make his earliest exit of the season.

Gorzelanny’s previous earliest departures came twice after 4 2/3 innings, most recently on June 18 when he gave up five runs on 10 hits in a 7-4 loss to Baltimore. He had permitted five earned runs over his previous 20 innings.

“His command in the first inning was awful,” Johnson said of Gorzelanny’s performance today. “He’s usually very sharp around the dish. Second inning it looked like he got back on track. I figured I’d get five or six out of him easy. Unfortunately the catcher got in the way, and he hurt himself, but I’m hopeful he’ll be okay.”

Gorzelanny wasn’t ready to proclaim himself fit for his next start, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be ready to go either. He said he would receive treatment and then assess the injury down the road.

Following their three-game series at Houston, the Nationals have an off day before going to Los Angeles to face the Dodgers for three games. That extra day of rest may be just what Gorzelanny needs to get back on the mound.

“I don’t know. When something happens, you can’t make a decision right then and there,” Gorzelanny said of whether his next start is in jeopardy. “You’ve got to wait a couple days, see how it feels, but hopefully I’m able to do it.”