WASHINGTON — A quote attributed to boxing great Muhammed Ali was on the dry erase board in the Atlanta Braves‘ clubhouse on Wednesday: “Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”
That is the challenge these days for the Braves, who are struggling on and off the field. Hours after outfielder Hector Olivera was arrested in domestic abuse case, Atlanta lost its eighth game in a row to start the season as the Washington Nationals beat the Braves 3-0 on Wednesday with home runs from Stephen Drew and Jayson Werth.
Atlanta has now lost its last 13 games at Nationals Park and is off to its worst start since 1988, when the Braves were 0-10 before getting their first victory.
“It is a great game. The game of baseball is a great game. It is a humbling game and right now we are being humbled in a lot of different areas,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
The Braves were held to five hits — all singles. Atlanta has given up 120 total bases this year but only has 70 on offense.
“The great thing about our game also is you can go out tomorrow or the next day and hopefully we can get a streak going,” Gonzalez added.
That didn’t happen Wednesday as Washington’s Tanner Roark, a late fill-in for Stephen Strasburg, pitched seven scoreless innings to get the win in his second start of the year.
In his first start, he went two innings before a rain delay and two more after the delay.
“We will call him the 24-hour man. He will take the ball almost any time,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said, noting that was about how much time Roark had to prepare for his start.
Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos said Roark’s two-seamer was very effective. “It is very hard to hit that pitch,” Ramos said.
The Braves have lost their last 13 games at Nationals Park. Washington, which will go for the four-game sweep Thursday afternoon, improved to 6-1 and is 26-9 against Atlanta since June 21, 2014.
Roark (1-1) allowed just four hits and three walks with four strikeouts while throwing 100 pitches — 60 for strikes. Atlanta starter Matt Wisler (0-1) gave up three runs, including two homers, in six innings in the briskly played game that lasted two hours and 12 minutes.
“He finished so well,” Gonzalez said of Wisler. “That is how well he pitched after those home runs.”
“He is pitching pretty good,” Ramos said of Papelbon. “That is what we need. He is aggressive.”
Washington has won four in a row and six straight overall dating back to last season against the Braves, who have been outscored 49-22 this season and out-hit 74-51.
Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman was hitless in four at-bats and is hitting .080 in 25 at-bats this season. He struck out twice and has fanned nine times this year.
Stephen Drew hit his first homer of the year — a shot to right center on a 2-2 pitch — to lead off the fourth and give the Nationals a 1-0 lead.
“Everyone is positive,” said Drew, in his first year with the Nationals after playing last season for the New York Yankees.
After a walk to Daniel Murphy, Jayson Werth crushed the first pitch from Wisler to left center for a two-run shot to build the margin to 3-0.
Drew made the start at third base as regular Anthony Rendon got the night off. It was the 11th homer allowed this season by Atlanta, which has hit just three.
NOTES: Braves OF Hector Olivera was put on administrative leave by Major League Baseball after he was arrested in a domestic dispute early Wednesday at the team hotel in nearby Arlington, Va. Olivera, 31, from Cuba, made his big league debut last year in 24 games with the Braves and was hitting .211 in six games this season. To take his place on the 25-man roster, the Braves recalled INF Daniel Castro from Triple-A Gwinnett. “It’s something that this morning you get told the news and it’s disappointing,” Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said before the game. “Don’t want to comment on it because there’s an ongoing investigation with MLB and the local authorities, so we’ve just got to leave it at that for now. It doesn’t matter if you’re 7-0 or 0-7 when something like that happens, it’s not good.” … Washington RHP Stephen Strasburg was slated to start Wednesday but was scratched because of illness. Manager Dusty Baker did not rule out that Strasburg could start Thursday against Atlanta … The Nationals’ 6-1 start is the best in D.C. franchise history, which began in 2005 when the team moved from Montreal.