Stults, Johnson lead Braves over Nationals 5-2

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Associated Press

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) — The competition for Atlanta’s fifth starter spot is starting to heat up.

A day after Wandy Rodriguez threw five hitless innings against the Marlins, fellow fifth-starter candidate Eric Stults chipped with a nice outing of his own against the Washington Nationals on Saturday, a 5-3 victory for the Braves.

Stults allowed two runs and five hits in five innings. In four appearances this spring, the 35-year-old left-hander has yielded four earned runs and induced seven double plays.

“Competition is great,” Stults said. “What Wandy’s been able to do has been great. We’re all competing to make this team. Hopefully there’s spots for all of us, but you just don’t know.”

Washington starting pitcher Taylor Jordan allowed one hit and no runs in three innings.

Jonny Gomes hit a two-run single in the fourth inning for Atlanta to tie the game at two.

Kelly Johnson remained hot at the plate. The Braves second baseman hit a double off the center field wall in the fourth. It was Johnson’s fourth extra-base hit in his last four games.

Nationals reliever Evan Meek allowed four hits and three runs in one inning of relief.


Nationals: Jordan threw three innings of one-hit ball, topping out at 92 on the radar gun. The young right-hander is coming off an injury-plagued season in 2014 and is expected to begin the season in the minors.

Braves: Stults was making his first start of the spring following three relief appearances.


Braves reliever Michael Kohn threw one inning in relief of Stults, allowing one walk and striking out two.

The right-hander, who had Tommy John surgery in 2012, said he has been working with Atlanta pitching coach Roger McDowell to try something new with his mechanics.

“Today was a little different, me and Roger did some things,” he said. “I’ve always thrown on the third base side of the rubber my entire career and I moved to the first base side today.”

Kohn also got some advice from Braves Hall of Famer Tom Glavine, who is in camp as a guest instructor for a few days.

“It’s awesome for me, a guy who grew up a die-hard Braves fan, to sit there and pick the brain of a Hall of Famer like Glavine,” Kohn said. “It was unbelievable.”


Braves: Prior to the game, outfielder Nick Markakis took batting practice for the second straight day.

Markakis, signed as a free agent in the offseason, has yet to play due to a neck injury, but he is hoping to be ready for opening day.


Nationals: Stephen Strasburg was scratched from his start against Detroit’s Justin Verlander in Lakeland on Sunday because of an injured ankle. A.J. Cole will start instead.

Braves: RHP Shelby Miller is scheduled to face Detroit LHP Kyle Lobstein in Kissimmee on Sunday.