WASHINGTON — Families fight, even on special occasions. Birthday boy Stephen Strasburg and Nationals ace Max Scherzer are leaving it at that.
Strasburg was batted around by the Atlanta Braves, then engaged in a heated spat with Scherzer in the dugout during the Washington Nationals’ 8-5 loss Friday night.
The Nationals delayed opening their clubhouse to reporters after the game, and Strasburg then offered no clarification for the animated discussion between him and Scherzer.
“It’s part of family, man,” he said. “You got to be in the family.”
The dispute occurred after Strasburg, activated from the 10-day disabled list earlier in the day and throwing on his 30th birthday, gave up six runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings. He walked into the dugout, got a pat on the back from Scherzer and sat down on the bench. They began barking at each other, then both quickly went off-camera by leaving the dugout.
Another reporter asked if the two pitchers spoke again after the initial tiff.
“You got to be in the family,” Strasburg said forcefully. “You’re not.”
Washington, which has lost six of nine, fell to 48-49, six games behind Atlanta and 6 ½ behind NL East-leading Philadelphia.
The Braves lost All-Star second baseman Ozzie Albies in the third inning, and the team said he was lifted as a precaution because of right hamstring tightness. Manager Brian Snitker said Albies is “OK,” but would help to rest him “for a day or two and see how he is.”
Albies had an RBI double and stole a base in a two-run first inning. Ronald Acuna Jr. homered, doubled and singled, scored three runs and had two of Atlanta’s four stolen bases.
“It couldn’t have been any better,” Snitker said. “I loved the aggressiveness.”
Anibal Sanchez (5-2) allowed three runs over six innings for the Braves, who entered the All-Star break having lost eight of 11. A.J. Minter pitched the ninth for his fifth save.
“We felt really good about Sanchy, the veteran he is, handling that after the All-Star break,” Snitker said.
The tone was far different in the other clubhouse. Manager Dave Martinez spoke with reporters in his office rather than the standard press conference room after meeting with his top starting pitchers.
“We had a really good conversation, I’ll just say that,” Martinez said. “It was addressed. Look, they’re very competitive. Everyone is. I’m glad we talked. It’s over. Let’s move forward. These guys are professionals. They’re good.”
Matt Adams, Trea Turner and Juan Soto homered for the Nationals, who hosted the All-Star Game on Tuesday.
Strasburg went on the DL on June 10 with right shoulder inflammation. He landed in trouble quickly in his return as the Braves scored two in the first inning.
Albies’ knocked in the Braves’ first run with a double, stole third and shrewdly came home on Freddie Freeman’s groundout as third baseman Anthony Rendon’s wide throw forced Adams to reach at first base.
Culberson, who would later homer, pinch-hit for Albies in the third. The 21-year-old Albies entered Friday leading the National League in several offensive categories, including runs, extra-base hits and total bases.
Adams’ 16th home run of the season tied the score at 2 in the third, but Atlanta countered with a single run in the fourth. Freeman’s two-run double highlighted a three-run fifth that put the Braves up 6-2 and ended Strasburg’s outing. He struck out six and threw 98 pitches.
Nationals catcher Matt Wieters said he believed Strasburg’s command wasn’t quite right but the stuff was. Upon a reporter relaying hearing Wieters’ thoughts, a curt Strasburg said, “Yeah, pretty much.”