The Braves know one way to get Stephen Strasburg now. Draw him into town on the hottest day on record in Atlanta history and ambush him.
The Nationals ace lasted only three innings in the triple-digit heat Saturday afternoon, leaving the game pale and dizzy. By then the Braves had worked ahead of him with a three-run inning on their way to a 7-5 win.
The Braves won for the first time three games against Strasburg this season, and they’ll take it any way they can get it. Trying to hold steady until the All-Star break, they won for the first time in the past eight starts with either Mike Minor or Randall Delgado pitching, and only the second time in seven meetings with the Nationals this season.
“They’ve got great pitching, a great lineup, but so do we,” said Dan Uggla, who put the Braves ahead of Strasburg 3-2 with an RBI double in the third inning. “And it’s time we turned the corner with what’s been going on against them.”
The Braves scored a season-high seven runs on Nationals pitching to move back within 3 ½ games of their N.L. East lead. They used it all to hold off a late run after the Nats rallied from 7-2 down with three runs in the sixth and seventh.
But the Braves set the tone early with back-to-back walks by Michael Bourn and Martin Prado in the first and third innings, driving Strasburg’s pitch count up. He had 24 pitches after the first inning, 43 after the second, and 67 when he came out of the game after drawing a walk while batting in the fourth inning.
At the 4:08 p.m. first pitch Saturday, the temperature was announced at 104 degrees, but a gauge indicated on the field it was pushing 120. Strasburg received three bags of IV fluid after he left the game.
“After the second inning he wasn’t even speaking to (pitching coach Steve) McCatty and he was white in the face,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson told reporters. “(After the third) he went in the runway and was breathing pretty heavy. It was pretty scary, and he wasn’t talking too good.”
When Johnson went to tell home plate umpire Marvin Hudson that Chien-Ming Wang was coming into the game, Hudson told him Strasburg had appeared dizzy at the plate.
Strasburg is a native of San Diego and not as used to the heat. Minor, who grew up in Chapel Hill, Tenn., kept cool by drinking a sport beverage after every inning and resting in the air-conditioned tunnel.
The Braves felt good about him pitching into the sixth inning, much less holding down a 7-2 lead along the way.
“He competed his butt off today and gave everything he had,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “Today 80 something pitches might equal about 140, the way the weather was. I thought for his psyche and his confidence, we took a step forward with him today.”
One thing the Braves haven’t got from Minor lately is damage control like he worked in the third inning, when he got a double-play ball to end a bases-loaded threat, and a shutdown inning in the fourth, after his offense hadn’t given him his first lead of the day 3-2.
“It’s just an up and down year right now for me,” said Minor, now 4-6 with a 6.20 ERA. “I’m just trying to do my best every time I go out there and try to give the team a chance to win.”
Minor left Kris Medlen work to do after a walk and a double in the seventh and both of his runners scored, leaving him four runs in five-plus innings. Medlen allowed a run of his own and left a runner for Chad Durbin, who loaded the bases on two walks before getting his groundout. Eric O’Flaherty and Craig Kimbrel made it seven in a row retired from there.
“You can’t give up a pitch in the middle of the plate,” Durbin said. “So you’re throwing to the corners and trusting it’s going to work out at some point.”
Bourn and Prado reached base seven times between them, and the Braves got run-scoring doubles from Bourn, Uggla, Jason Heyward and Juan Francisco. Andrelton Simmons went 3-for-4 for his eighth multi-hit game in his past 16 games.