Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes
ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Braves offense has been broken most of the season, so it was fitting that manager Fredi Gonzalez was thrown out of the game against the Nationals for kicking a splintered bat.
The Braves, running out of time to make up ground in their fading wild-card chase, are also running out of patience.
Atlanta fell short in its ninth-inning comeback attempt and was beaten by Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals 4-2 on Monday night.
Strasburg threw seven scoreless innings. The Nationals can clinch the NL East division by beating the defending champion Braves on Tuesday night.
The frustration for the sagging Braves showed when Freddie Freeman was ejected for arguing following his strikeout to end the sixth. Freeman slammed his bat to the ground before leaving the field.
"I didn't say a word ... not a word came out of my mouth," Freeman said. "I guess I shouldn't have slammed my bat."
Gonzalez took over the argument, kicked Freeman's broken bat, and was tossed by home-plate umpire Tim Timmons.
"I was just trying to get out there and keep him in the game," Gonzalez said of Freeman.
Gonzalez acknowledged the Braves are "running out of games."
"We're all collectively — and I'm talking about our coaches, to our front office staff, to our players, to our fans — we want to win," Gonzalez said. "Anything short of us getting in some kind of playoff game or play-in game, it's not acceptable."
The Braves scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth.
Rafael Soriano gave up Justin Upton's run-scoring double, and after Soriano walked Chris Johnson, Drew Storen gave up Christian Bethancourt's single up the middle to drive in Upton.
Storen's wild pitch left runners on second and third, but B.J. Upton grounded out to end the game. Storen earned his sixth save.
Atlanta's Ervin Santana (14-9) allowed two runs and only three hits, including Wilson Ramos' homer, in six innings.
The Braves (75-75) have lost four straight to fall to .500 for the first time since they were 1-1. They trail Pittsburgh by 4 1-2 games for the second NL wild-card spot.
Strasburg (12-11) had seven strikeouts and allowed only five hits.
"He had a little bit of a tight neck tonight from sleeping but he battled through that," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "So he wasn't on his 'A' game, but he sure pitched like it."
Washington left fielder Bryce Harper left the game in the fourth inning after feeling light-headed. Williams said Harper might have caught an illness that has gone through the team.
Freeman's first-inning single gave him an 11-game hitting streak. He is 14 for 40 (.350) during the spurt. He has hit .470 (31 for 66) against the Nationals this season.
Strasburg ended a streak of eight winless starts against Atlanta. His last win over the Braves came on Aug. 21, 2012. He had been 0-3 with a 7.17 ERA against the Braves this season, including a 6-2 loss at Washington last Wednesday.
Nationals: Ryan Zimmerman (right hamstring) is beginning a rehab schedule at the team's complex in Viera, Florida. He is expected to play three innings at first base in a simulated game on Tuesday, followed by five innings on Wednesday, a game as the DH, and then progressing to seven and nine innings. He will play different positions along the way.
Braves: C Evan Gattis met with team doctors on Monday to determine why his strep throat symptoms have lasted longer than expected. He has missed seven games since his last start on Sept. 7.
Nationals: Tanner Roark, who ended a three-game losing streak by beating the New York Mets on Thursday, will try for his 14th win when he faces the Braves on Tuesday.
Braves: Aaron Harang will attempt to continue his success against Washington. He is 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA in three starts against the Nationals this season.
Follow Charles Odum on Twitter: http://twitter.com/CharlesOdum
Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.