WASHINGTON (AP) — Stephen Strasburg pitched through the fifth inning Tuesday night, long enough to make the Atlanta Braves take notice.
Strasburg didn't allow a run in his return from the disabled list, and the Braves' rally against the bullpen fell short in a 3-1 loss to the Washington Nationals.
Cameron Maybin homered in the eighth inning, and Nick Markakis had three hits for Atlanta in a game that was delayed more than two hours at the start by rain.
Alex Wood (4-5) allowed three runs and 10 hits over seven innings, outlasting Strasburg, but not outpitching him.
"Strasburg was probably the best since I've been here — two-and-a-half, three years," said Wood, whose loss dropped the Braves three games behind the NL East-leading Nationals.
Atlanta has typically caused Strasburg (4-5) troubles. Even after Tuesday's start, his career ERA against theBraves dropped only to 4.01, his highest mark against a division opponent and third-highest against a National League club.
But after missing 21 games with neck tightness, Strasburg returned to allow only one runner as far second base against on the day Atlanta sent power-hitting first baseman Freddie Freeman to the disabled list.
Strasburg allowed four hits and a walk while striking out six. He threw 94 pitches in an outing cut short by a team-imposed pitch count.
"His curveball was looking real good," said Chris Johnson, who had one of the Braves' four hits against the starter. "He was working both sides of the plate."
Anthony Rendon tied his career-high with four hits and Wilson Ramos added three for the Nationals, who have won four straight while allowing a total of four runs.
The Nationals got to Wood for runs in three of the first four innings.
In the third, Michael A. Taylor singled and took second when Maybin misplayed the ball in center field. Taylor stole third and came home on Span's one-out single past a drawn-in infield to make it 2-0.
Washington made it 3-0 in the fourth when Taylor drove in Danny Espinosa after Espinosa reached on whatBraves manager Fredi Gonzalez thought should have been a double-play ball.
"It could've been a lot worse, too," Gonzalez said of those innings. "And you've got to give Woody a lot of credit . they didn't put a crooked number up."
Maybin homered off Matt Thornton with two outs in the eighth. Markakis and A.J. Pierzynski followed with singles, but David Carpenter came on to retire Juan Uribe.
Drew Storen recorded his 21st save after he allowed singles to Andrelton Simmons and Kelly Johnson, then walked Jace Peterson to load the bases. Maybin popped out to the catcher to end it.
"It's disappointing," Wood said of the loss. "You come in here with first place in the division on the line. We battle from start to finish."