WASHINGTON — The personable Dusty Baker, who likes to talk with his players in the clubhouse, approached starter Stephen Strasburg before Wednesday’s game.
The manager asked the right-handed pitcher three questions: Was he ready? Was he psyched? Was he chomping at the bit?
“He answered all of the questions yes,” Baker said. “I know he is a competitor.”
But hours after coming off the disabled list, Strasburg lasted only 2 1/3 innings and 42 pitches as he left the game in the third inning after dealing with right elbow soreness for the past few weeks.
The Nationals ended up winning 5-4 over the Atlanta Braves in 11 innings, but their chances for a possible World Series berth may take a hit if Strasburg can’t return to full health for a possible postseason run. Strasburg was not available to the media after the game and he is slated to have an MRI later Thursday, according to Baker.
“He felt a pinch in the back of his elbow. That was a long walk,” Baker said of his trip to the mound in the top of the third to take him out. “So I am hoping he is okay. We will find out more tomorrow. He is frustrated and upset. I told you guys earlier … he said he felt fine (before the game). You don’t know until you get into action.”
Strasburg was a Tommy John surgery patient and so was Lucas Giolito, a rookie right-hander. Baker said he doesn’t think the Wednesday injury is the same area of his elbow that put him on the disabled list last month.
“I am just hoping Stras is okay,” said Giolito, who gave up two runs in 3 1/3 innings as the second reliever to follow Strasburg. “It is definitely not the best thing to look at. It is definitely a tough thing.”
Wilson Ramos hit an RBI single with the bases loaded and no outs in the 11th inning to end the game before a few hundred fans around 12:40 a.m. EDT.
Washington’s Danny Espinosa and Chris Heisey singled in the 10th before Anthony Rendon’s infield hit tied the game at 4. Jace Peterson’s single drove in Nick Markakis in the top of the 10th to give the Braves a 4-3 lead.
The winning pitcher was Mat Latos (1-0), who got one out in the 11th. Jed Bradley (1-1) was tagged with the loss after putting three runners on, but Brandon Cunniff served up Ramos’ hit.
Washington’s Daniel Murphy had a two-run single in the seventh off reliever Ian Krol, a former National. That gave Murphy 100 RBIs this year, and he finished the night with three hits.
Dansby Swanson had two hits, including a homer, and Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis each had three hits for the Braves.
Swanson hit a solo home run in the seventh off Giolito to give the Braves a 3-1 lead. It was the second career homer for Swanson, who hit an inside-the-park home run Tuesday against the Nationals.
“The kid’s playing well. Doing everything that we had hoped and thought he would. He’s handling everything spectacular,” interim Braves manager Brian Snitker said.
The Braves took a 2-1 lead in the sixth when Tyler Flowers drove in a run with a fielder’s choice against Giolito. Atlanta starter Mike Foltynewicz allowed one run and five hits in six innings.
“He probably could have pitched a couple of innings in the end after he came out and regrouped,” Snitker said. “He was really good. Really just competed and left everything out there. He’s just coming along exactly the way we thought he would. He’s doing those one-on-one battles and winning most of them.”
Trea Turner, Ramos and Jayson Werth had two hits for the Nationals.
Atlanta’s Ender Inciarte extended his hitting streak to 18 games with a single in the 11th.
The Nationals (82-57) are 8 1/2 games ahead of the New York Mets in the National League East, while the Braves fell to 54-86.
Strasburg exited after he was credited for a strikeout when opposing pitcher Foltynewicz was called out when he bunted a ball foul for the third strike.
Strasburg was looked at by the trainer and got a pat on the stomach from Baker, who took Strasburg out of the game in favor of lefty Sean Burnett.
Strasburg was charged with one run on two hits with four strikeouts in 2 1/3 innings after Swanson scored on a double by Adonis Garcia later in the inning to give the Braves a 1-0 lead.
“I saw a grimace on his face,” Baker said of the next-to-last pitch Strasburg threw. “He wasn’t trying to be a hero. (Catcher) Ramos said he was throwing the heck out of the ball. I like the way we fought back.”
NOTES: The game was delayed 57 minutes by the threat of rain and a light rain fell in the first inning … On Roberto Clemente Day, Nationals 1B Ryan Zimmerman and Atlanta RHP Jim Johnson were named their team’s nominees for the annual Roberto Clemente Award. … The Nationals activated INF Stephen Drew (vertigo) from the 15-day disabled list prior to Wednesday’s game. He went on the disabled list July 27and was 1-for-1 Wednesday off the bench. … Washington begins a series at homeThursday with Philadelphia as RHP Alec Asher (0-0, 0.00 ERA) starts for the Phillies. The Nationals will start RHP A.J. Cole (1-1, 3.86). … The Braves are off Thursday and play Friday as RHP Julio Teheran (5-9, 3.01 ERA) goes against Mets RHP Robert Gsellman (2-1, 2.87 ERA) in New York.