Longtime nemesis Freeman terrorizes Strasburg, Nats (Heisey walks off Braves)


Score: Nationals 9, Braves (ss) 7

Recap: Chris Heisey hit a walk-off three-run home run in the ninth to give the Naitonals the victory in a game that featured six total homers. Freddie Freeman, making the road trip as part of the Braves' split-squad team, did his usual damage against Nationals pitching, homering twice with three RBI and a walk before departing after five innings. The first homer came against Stephen Strasburg, who was dominant at times but had to battle through a couple of long frames during his four-inning start. Long man Yusmeiro Petit surrendered the second Freeman homer, a two-run shot to left-center that appeared to carom off Ben Revere's glove and over the short wall. Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos all homered for the Nationals, with Zimmerman and Ramos' blasts hit to center field in impressive fashion.

Need to know: How much has the Nationals' running game improved this spring? Well, when Bryce Harper swiped second base in the bottom of the fourth today, it improved the club's overall stolen base percentage to a whopping 95.8 percent (23-for-24). The only guy to be thrown out so far is Revere. Alas, by day's end, Revere was thrown out again, lowering the club's success rate to a mere 92 percent.

On deck: Friday vs. Mets at Port St. Lucie, 6:05 p.m.

VIERA, Fla. - The Braves have long been one of Stephen Strasburg's worst nemeses, and Freddie Freeman has long been the Nationals' most feared opposing hitter. So this afternoon's developments at Space Coast Stadium, exhibition game or not, should come as little surprise to Strasburg and the Nats.

Freeman once again was a one-man wrecking crew, homering off Strasburg in the top of the first, drawing a walk in the top of the third and then homering again off Yusmeiro Petit in the fifth.

Stephen-Strasburg-focused-spring.jpgStrasburg fared better against other members of Atlanta's split-squad lineup, but the right-hander did have to battle through his four innings of work, throwing an elevated total of 74 pitches.

The final result for Strasburg was adequate enough: two runs on five hits in four innings. But it was anything but a leisurely afternoon on the mound for the right-hander.

"It was a grinder," he said. "They put a lot of good at-bats together. Those are the things you kind of want to get through now, so you're kind of battle-tested during the season."

Strasburg's day started off in impressive fashion, with back-to-back strikeouts of Ender Inciarte and Ozzie Albies. But then Freeman stepped to the plate and proceeded to put together yet another of his ridiculously quality at-bats against the Nationals. The Braves first baseman battled to a full count, fouling off a couple of pitches, taking a couple of borderline pitches, then crushing the final one over the left-center field wall.

Freeman, who also worked the count full against Strasburg in the top of the third before drawing a walk, later homered off Petit, again driving a pitch to left-center field, this time the ball appearing to carom off Ben Revere's outstretched glove and over the short fence.

This, of course, was nothing new for the Nationals, who have been having nightmares about Freeman wielding a bat for years. In 305 career regular-season at-bats against the Nats, Freeman owns a stout .338 batting average. In 2,709 at-bats against everyone else in the majors, that number plummets to .278.

"He's smart and uses the whole field," manager Dusty Baker said. "We'll figure it out hopefully how to get him out more than the past. I hear he's hit us harder than anybody else in the league. He's probably played more games against this team than anybody being in the same division. He feels mighty comfortable in there. You can tell."

Overall, Strasburg used this game as an opportunity to work on his changeup, particularly working on using it in a variety of situations.

"Just trying to evolve the pitch a little bit more," he said. "I'm throwing it in counts that I don't normally throw it in. I think if I can get better at throwing any pitch in any count, it's going to have some success."

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