By CHARLES ODUM
ATLANTA (AP) — The Washington Nationals are in obvious need of a momentum-changing win as they approach the end of May. Much closer to last place than first in the NL East.
Adam Eaton hopes overpowering performances by Stephen Strasburg and closer Sean Doolittle will start that turnaround.
Strasburg matched his season high with 11 strikeouts in seven innings and the Nationals took the lead on three straight walks to beat the Atlanta Braves 5-4 on Tuesday night.
“It was a great team win, something we can build on,” said Eaton, who drew the first of back-to-back, bases-loaded walks in Washington’s three-run sixth.
Howie Kendrick had three hits, including his ninth homer , and scored two runs for Washington. Trea Turner also had three hits.
Braves rookie Austin Riley’s two-run homer off Kyle Barraclough in the eighth cut Washington’s lead to 5-4. Riley had three hits. His sixth homer in his 13th game cleared the center field wall.
Doolittle protected the one-run lead in the ninth for his 10th save in 12 chances. Dansby Swanson singled with two outs before Doolittle struck out Freddie Freeman . It was his third strikeout of the inning and 16th of the game by Washington pitchers.
“A great win,” Eaton said. “We needed that bad. I’m pretty fired up about it.”
Strasburg (5-3) gave up an RBI single to Nick Markakis in Atlanta’s two-run fourth but otherwise faced no trouble. He struck out two Atlanta batters in each of the first three innings and gave up only five hits and two runs.
“Stephen Strasburg set the tone,” said Washington manager Dave Martinez. “Another great outing by him. He was awesome.”
Atlanta led 2-1 through five innings before back-to-back doubles by Kendrick and Kurt Suzuki to open the sixth tied the game.
Max Fried (7-3) hit Victor Robles with a pitch and issued two walks in Washington’s three-run sixth. Fried, who gave up four runs in 5 1/3 innings, left the game after walking Eaton with the bases loaded, giving the Nationals a 3-2 lead.
Anthony Swarzak, making his Atlanta debut after he was acquired from Seattle on May 20, walked Anthony Rendon to force in another run.
Nationals: RHP Aníbal Sánchez will come off the 10-day injured list to start Wednesday night. Sánchez is returning from a left hamstring injury. He has had no setbacks and was confirmed as the starter following the game. Martinez waited until a final update on Sánchez, who tested the hamstring by running on Tuesday, before officially announcing plans for the second game of the series.
Braves: There is no word on when OF Ender Inciarte will start baseball activities in his rehab from a lumbar strain. Inciarte was placed on the 10-day IL on May 15 and has missed 13 games.
Fried’s pickoff move produced two outs. Fried threw to second to pick off Turner in the first. After Eaton was grazed by a pitch from Fried in the fifth, the left-hander’s pickoff to first fooled Eaton, who reacted too late. “For a team like Washington that likes to run, I felt he did a very good job of controlling their running game,” said Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson.
Juan Soto led off the fourth with a single up the middle for a 12-game hitting streak. Soto advanced to second on Suzuki’s single and scored on a two-out single by Robles. Rendon had three walks and has reached base in 15 consecutive games.
FINALLY WE MEET
It was the season’s first meeting of the NL East rivals. This was the latest the teams have opened their season series since 2005 — the Nationals’ first year. “It seems like we’ve played the Mets every other day,” Martinez said. “It’s kind of weird.”
Nationals: Sánchez (0-6, 5.10) will look for his first win in his 10th start of the season. He is 5-11 with a 4.99 ERA in 18 career starts against the Braves.
Braves: LHP Kevin Gausman (2-3, 4.33) is 4-1 with a 4.41 ERA in six career starts against Washington.
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