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Strasburg builds stamina in Nats' loss to Braves

Strasburg builds stamina in Nats' loss to Braves

VIERA, Fla. -- Right-hander Stephen Strasburg showed that he was vulnerable in the sixth inning as the Braves topped the Nationals, 7-2, at Space Coast Stadium on Monday.

Strasburg was dominant in the first five innings, allowing no runs on one hit. He was so efficient that manager Davey Johnson allowed Strasburg to pitch the sixth inning, which is when the Braves scored six runs.

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With the bases loaded and one out, Justin Upton singled to left field to drive in Reed Johnson and Tyler Pastornicky. Two batters later, left-hander Zach Duke was in the game for Washington, and he couldn't stop the bleeding, allowing RBI hits to B.J. Upton, Ernesto Mejia and Blake Dewitt to make it a 6-0 game, with four of the runs charged to Strasburg.

B.J. Upton finished 2-for-3 on the day, raising his Grapefruit League average to .405.

Braves left-hander Paul Maholm was just as dominant, pitching five shutout innings -- striking out five and allowing two hits -- before relievers Anthony Varvaro and Cory Gearrin blanked the Nationals the rest of the way.

The Nationals' best chance to score against Maholm occurred in the fifth inning. They had had runners on first and second and no outs, but Danny Espinosa hit into a double play and Kurt Suzuki grounded out to end the threat.

Washington left-hander Fernando Abad allowed an RBI single to Dewitt in the eighth before the Nationals got on the board with Carlos Rivero's RBI groundout in the bottom of the inning.

Nationals first baseman Tyler Moore added a solo homer in the bottom of the ninth for the game's final margin.

Up next: The Nationals have the day off on Tuesday, but they return to action Wednesday and play split-squad games against the Mets and Astros. Both games begin at 1:05 p.m. ET. Right-handers Jordan Zimmermann (vs. New York at Space Coast Stadium) and Ross Ohlendorf (at Houston in Kissimmee) are expected to make the starts for the Nats. After those games end, the Nationals are expected to make their second round of cuts.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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