ATLANTA — On Atlanta’s hottest day on record, Mike Minor did enough to cool off Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals.
“He did, under tough conditions,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “I think we took a step forward with him today. He competed his butt off today.”
Minor won for only the second time in 12 starts and Atlanta overcame 106-degree heat to beat the Nationals 7-5 on Saturday at Turner Field.
The Braves now trail the Nationals by 3½ games in the National League East.
The National Weather Service reported that the temperature was one degree hotter than the previous high from 1980.
“I think today 80-some pitches might equal about 140 the way the weather was,” Gonzalez said. “For (Minor’s) psyche ad his confidence, I think we took a step forward today. He was a bulldog today, didn’t give it up.”
Strasburg (9-3) left after just three innings because of weather-related issues and had three intravenous fluid treatments. He didn’t return to begin the fourth, tying for the shortest outing of his 33-start career.
Braves officials reported no major health problems among the announced crowd of 26,491. The team credited eight free water stations at Turner Field with helping fans cool off.
Strasburg allowed two hits, three runs and four walks. Throwing 36 of his 67 pitches for strikes, Strasburg struck out four to reach 122, most in the majors.
Strasburg took extra time between pitches and walked slowly between innings.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson came out of the dugout after the third to tell home plate umpire Marvin Hudson that Strasburg was leaving as Chien-Ming Wang jogged in from the bullpen.
“Pretty scary, and he wasn’t talking too good,” Johnson said. “I found out later he got a little dizzy out on the mound. The problem was that he was totally dehydrated. I think the doctor gave him, you know, three transfusions of saline, and he still wasn’t going to the bathroom.”
Atlanta had lost four of six and dropped 16 of 26 to Washington at home dating to October 2009.
Strasburg lost consecutive starts for the first time since June 2010, when Kansas City and Atlanta beat him in the fourth and fifth starts of his career. His previous shortest outing was Sept. 11, 2011, when he received no-decision at home against Houston – the second start he made after returning from elbow surgery on Sept. 3, 2010.
Minor (4-6) had lost his past two starts, allowing eight earned runs and four homers at the New York Yankees and Boston. The left-hander was pulled for Kris Medlen with no out in the sixth and runners on second and third.
“It’s just an up and down year for me,” Minor said. “I’m just trying to do my best every time I go out there and try to give the team a chance to win and try to do my job at the plate. Luckily, today I got a bunt down (in the fourth). That’s been a struggle for me, too.”
Medlen gave up RBI singles to Tyler Moore and Jesus Flores as the Nationals cut the lead to 7-4.
After the Nationals made it 7-5 in the seventh on Adam LaRoche’s RBI double, Chad Durbin replaced Medlen and walked two before stranding the bases loaded on a grounder by Flores.
Craig Kimbrel earned his 23rd save and converted his 15th consecutive opportunity by retiring Ryan Zimmerman on a groundout and striking out Michael Morse and LaRoche. Kimbrel was coming off a rare loss in a non-save situation Thursday against Arizona that ended his 17-game scoreless streak.
Washington led 1-0 in the first on Zimmerman’s RBI groundout.
Strasburg helped himself with an RBI single in the second after a double by LaRoche.
In the third, Strasburg walked Michael Bourn and Martin Prado before Heyward doubled for Atlanta’s first hit on Strasburg’s 61st pitch.
Minor stranded the bases loaded in the third when Ian Desmond grounded into a double play and then retired six of the next seven batters.
In the fourth, Wang gave up Juan Francisco’s RBI double, Bourn’s RBI double and Prado’s sacrifice fly. In the fifth, Andrelton Simmons’ RBI single made it 7-2.
For Minor, it was strange to see Strasburg struggle. The two pitchers got to know each other in 2009 during the major league draft when Washington took Strasburg No. 1 overall and the Braves picked Minor at No. 7.
“He’s got top-of-the-line stuff,” Minor said. “He’s like Kimbrel being a starter, with a change-up. He’s just a dominant pitcher. For him to go down today and get brought out early, it helped us out (getting to) their bullpen.”