Washington Nationals open big series with Atlanta with 4-3 win

washington nationalsThere are 25 guys on a Major League roster for a reason, and the Washington Nationals tested the limits of the roster in a 4-3 series-opening win over NL East-leading Atlanta on Friday.

The Nats, clinging to that one-run lead in the late innings, got out of an eighth-inning jam with reliever Trevor Rosenthal, he of the 18.47 ERA on the season, getting the key out.

And then, with closer Sean Doolittle not available because he’d been used each of the past two days during the sweep of Philadelphia, Nationals manager Dave Martinez went to Wander Suero, he of zero career saves coming in.

Suero walked Brian McCann and gave up a single to Ozzie Albies to lead off the ninth, then got Charlie Culberson to line out to right, struck out Ronald Acuna Jr. for the second out, then got saved by one of the better game-clinching defensive plays you’ll see, when Victor Robles plucked a sinking liner off the bat of Dansby Swanson out of the sky for the third out.

Stephen Strasburg (8-4, 3.79 ERA) got the win for Washington, which has gone 18-7 since May 24 after a 19-31 start to pull to within six and a half games of the Braves in the East.

Dallas Keuchel (0-1, 5.40 ERA) took the loss for Atlanta in his first start of the season.

Keuchel put up three scoreless innings and led 3-0 after three, but was touched up for a three-spot in the Nats’ fourth, with Brian Dozier reaching on a throwing error by Albies, then scoring on a triple to right-center by Robles, who had two hits on the night.

Michael A. Taylor squeezed Robles home to make it 3-2, and then Yan Gomes tied the score with a 447-foot bomb to left, the longest home run in Nationals Park this season.

Juan Soto led off the Washington fifth with a triple, and scored on an Anthony Rendon soft liner that just skimmed off the top of Swanson’s glove in short left, to put the Nats on top for the first time.

Strasburg went six innings, giving up three runs, all earned, on five hits, striking out five and walking three.

It was a nice bounceback for the big righty. Strasburg had been touched up for six runs on nine hits, four of them homers, in five innings in a 10-3 loss to Arizona in his most recent start, last Saturday at Nats Park.

Story by Chris Graham

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