ATLANTA - Stephen Strasburg isn't the only one to have some health concerns coming out of tonight's game.
Jayson Werth dealt with hamstring cramps tonight, an issue that worsened as the game went on. He told manager Davey Johnson before an eighth inning at-bat that if he reached base, he'd need to have a pinch-runner take over. During the at-bat, Werth fouled a ball off his left ankle. He then struck out for the second out of the inning and was replaced in right field by Roger Bernadina in the bottom of the eighth.
The ankle was a little swollen after the game, Werth said. The hamstring, while it bugged the veteran outfielder, doesn't seem to be a major concern.
"I'll be fine, it's not like a strain or anything," he said. "Just a cramp. Those things happen. Sometimes they happen and you guys never hear about them. The ankle probably (makes) the situation worse."
Werth said he'll have to see how he feels tomorrow before knowing whether he'll need a day off.
Tyler Clippard surrendered the game-winning run in the seventh inning. It all started with - you guessed it - a leadoff walk, which the Nats allowed three of tonight. Gerald Laird took a five-pitch walk to lead off the frame, and he came in to score on Andrelton Simmons' sac fly to right.
Clippard now has seven walks in 9 1/3 innings this season.
"Obviously you don't want to walk the leadoff guy, you're never trying to do that," Clippard said. "But I've done it plenty of times in my career and gotten out of it. It's one of those things, I've got all the confidence in the world that runner is not moving off of first. I was just really up in the zone tonight and wasn't able to execute to stop them from scoring."
The Nats stranded runners in scoring position in the first, fourth and sixth innings. In the sixth, with the score tied 2-2, Werth and Adam LaRoche reached to lead off the frame, but Ian Desmond and Chad Tracy struck out and Kurt Suzuki lined out to right to end the threat.
LaRoche was one of the positives for the Nats today; the veteran first baseman snapped out of an 0-for-26 skid with a second inning single to left and also walked.
"Finally, first time in a while I thought I was in a position to hit," LaRoche said. "I was so tied up on some drivable pitches the past week. I was just borderline lost. So it felt good to kind of slow it down a little bit, to be able to pick the ball up and not try to hit it out of his hand. Slowed it down a little. That's a start."
As I wrote earlier, LaRoche put in work with his hunting buddy and former Braves star Chipper Jones before the game. The two broke down LaRoche's swing and Jones gave LaRoche a few tips that apparently backed up what hitting coach Rick Eckstein had already been preaching.
"We found a couple things," LaRoche said. "(Jones is) one who just remembers everything. He knows my swing as well as anybody. He was just thinking back of what he remembered what it used to look like, and then watching a bunch of film, some good swings from last year and some bad ones from this year, trying to compare. So it was good, kind of reinforcing the things that Eck and I have been talking about. Just to hear it from a different angle, it always helps."
The Nationals have dropped all four games against the Braves this season, and they've lost eight straight to Atlanta dating back to last year.
"I feel like we've been playing pretty good," Clippard said. "Obviously there's some room for improvement, that's for sure. But that's the nature of this game. It's not always going to go your way. You're not always going to make the unbelievable play. It's just the little things right now, and we can see it as a ballclub. And that's why we're still confident. Because we're very capable of doing those little things, and we will. And it's going to happen pretty soon."
Said Werth: "They've played good enough to win the games. We've played bad enough to lose. It'll turn around. I still believe in our club and think we got the best team. Time will tell."