Nationals fall, 7-2

END 9: Tyler Moore hit a solo home run to add the second run of the game. Stephen Strasburg was strong, even after a shaky sixth. Henry Rodriguez is being eased into action. Rafael Soriano was spotless again.

Oh, Henry

MID 8: The good and the bad of Henry Rodriguez was on display this frame. He got two outs and then allowed a single to center and a hit batter, and then gets the hook. He didn’t appear to be in any discomfort or upset as he walked off the mound, a potential sign it’s not an issue of health. Davey Johnson has been cautious with Rodriguez but signaled today he wants to put the right-hander on a regular workload now that he is pitching in game following his August surgery.

Soriano 1-2-3

MID 7: Rafael Soriano’s mound presence is something to behold. He has an palpable air of confidence and blows sliders and cutters past hitters with, what appears, ease. He got a pop out of Reed Johnson, Jordan Schafer flew out to center and he struck out Tyler Pastornicky swinging. Braves lead, 6-0.

Strasburg out, Duke in

END 6: Stephen Strasburg hit a wall in the sixth inning. Davey Johnson pulled him after allowing three singles, a walk and two runs. Innings 1 through 5 were unbelievably efficient, as if he made a concerted effort to pitch to contact. Zach Duke came on in relief and allowed a single and two doubles. Strasburg’s line was much better than it appears: 5 1/3, 4 H, 4 ER, 2 BB and 5 Ks. 76 balls, 53 for strikes. Braves lead, 6-0.

[Insert adjective here] Strasburg

END 5: This is by far Stephen Strasburg’s best start of the spring. He has pitched with great tempo, kept his pitches in the zone and allowed hitters to put them in play for outs. He has faced two hitters above the minimum: a fluky single and walk. Paul Maholm is also pitching a gem. Tie game, 0-0.

Strasburg = efficiency

MID 4: Yes, Stephen Strasburg has been unbelievably efficient this start. He has innings of 8, 9 and 11 pitches so far. The Nationals have wanted him to pitch to contact, and he has said so, too, himself. He is putting it in practice so far today.

Strasburg cruising

MID 3: What strikes me about Stephen Strasburg’s so far is his efficiency. He got two outs within the first two pitches of the at-bat this inning. He has baffled the Braves so far.

On offense, the Nationals have also been puzzled by Paul Maholm. He’s a soft-throwing left-hander but with an array of pitches. Denard Span, not prone to strikes, has struck out looking and swinging. Before the game, however, he was asking teammates about Maholm because has never faced him. Tie game, 0-0.

Strasburg 1-2-3

MID 2: Stephen Strasburg allowed a fluke single to B.J. Upton, which was out of a diving Chad Tracy’s reach, hit third base and then the third base umpire. But, he induced a 5-4-3 inning-ending double play out of Ernesto Mejia.

Strasburg throwing heat

MID 1: I wouldn’t want to face Stephen Strasburg right now. That first inning — albeit against two backups and Justin Upton — was absurd. Nine pitches, seven for strikes and two strikeouts. Tyler Pastornicky didn’t lift the bat off his shoulder and struck out looking. Upton looked a little miffed when he watched a low fastball go by him for a strikeout. Tie game, 0-0.


PREGAME: Stephen Strasburg makes his fourth start of the season and will face only two of the Braves regulars: B.J. and Justin Upton. Rafael Soriano will break his rule of not facing division opponents in spring training and is scheduled to be the first pitcher in relief of Strasburg. Here are the lineups.