ATLANTA -- For the first time since he reached the Majors with Pittsburgh, Matt Capps' father wasn't at Turner Field when his son came home to pitch against the Braves.

Mike Capps died at age 61 in October after falling off a ladder at his home in the Atlanta suburb of Douglasville and hitting his head on the concrete driveway. He went into cardiac arrest and never regained consciousness.

"I miss him very much," Capps said Monday before the Nationals' series opener against the Braves. "He was always here when I came back to Atlanta with the Pirates. But he's with me now every time I pitch, not just when he is physically in the ballpark."

It was when the Nationals' closer attended Braves games at old Fulton County Stadium that Capps' father made sure that his son realized a baseball career was a possibility, not just a wild dream.

Inside his Nationals cap, Capps has written this next to his jersey number and a cross: "Someone has to be." That's a takeoff on his father's words. When they would go to Braves games together, Capps would often hear, "Someone has to be the best. Why not you?"

Capps, 26, was not offered a contract by the Pirates after a dismal 2009, but he signed with Washington as a free agent and went into the Braves series leading the Majors with 22 saves in 26 attempts.

"I still listen to my father," Capps said. "I talk with him every day."

-- Guy Curtright

Offense can't back Strasburg yet again

ATLANTA -- Despite his continued brilliance since debuting in the Majors on June 8, there's been one troubling statistic that has plagued Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg's past three starts: a lack of run support from the Washington offense.

Although the 21-year-old phenom has completed 19 1/3 innings, while allowing five earned runs during his past three outings, he's received just one run of support while being the pitcher of record. His start against the Braves on Monday night was the worst of his brief career, as he surrendered three earned runs -- the first time he's allowed more than one run in the Majors -- but the outcome may have been different if the Nationals had capitalized on their offensive chances.

"Our offense just didn't have our day when Stephen's pitching," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said.

Granted, Braves starter Tim Hudson pitched brilliantly, conceding five hits in seven scoreless innings, but the Nationals had scoring opportunities in both the fourth and seventh innings.

In the fourth frame, the Nationals got three runners on base, but right fielder Roger Bernadina struck out to end the inning. In the seventh inning, Bernadina made partial amends with a leadoff double, but was left stranded in scoring position.

"It's not just Strasburg that we let down," shortstop Ian Desmond said. "We're letting ourselves down. Strasburg did a great job. Absolutely it's terrible seeing him lose a ballgame when he pitched so well."

Strasburg's run support in his past three outings has been a stark contrast to his Major League debut against the Pirates and his encore against the Indians. In the former, the Nationals afforded Strasburg four runs, and in the latter, six runs, while the right-hander was the pitcher of record.

"There's gonna be games where we ended up not scoring those runs," Strasburg said. "[In my] first two outings, we scored a ton of runs. We're trying to get back together as a team collectively, back to playing the game we know how to play."

-- Chris Hempson

Riggleman moves Pudge up to No. 2

ATLANTA -- With Cristian Guzman still nursing a sore neck, the Nationals turned to catcher Ivan Rodriguez as their No. 2 hitter on Monday night in the opener of a three-game series against Atlanta.

"Pudge has done it a few times, and in the past he's hit second," manager Jim Riggleman said. "We're just trying to move it around a little bit and trying to find something."

Alberto Gonzalez got the start at second base in place of Guzman and rookie right fielder Roger Bernadina, batting .333 in June, was moved up to sixth, where Rodriguez had been hitting.

"I kinda like some things about Pudge hitting second, but as a .300 hitter I also like him down there protecting [Josh] Willingham," Riggleman said. "But Roger's been hot. I'm really trying to cover a couple of things. I want [Adam] Dunn and Willingham protected and see what we can get out of that second spot."

Ringleman said that Guzman may return to the lineup as early as Tuesday and that he was available to pinch-hit if needed in the opener against the Braves.

Guzman, whose average had fallen from .345 to .297 since May 25, was scratched Sunday at Baltimore when he woke up with a stiff neck, and Adam Kennedy was inserted in his place. Kennedy was 2-for-4 against the Orioles, but committed a throwing error on an attempted double play that allowed the go-ahead run to score in a 4-3 loss.

Gonzalez started at shortstop in the series finale at Baltimore in place of Ian Desmond. He went 0-for-3 to stretch his slump to 1-for-16.

-- Guy Curtright

Walker to DL to make way for Stammen

ATLANTA -- Craig Stammen will be promoted from Triple-A Syracuse and get the start for the Nationals against the Braves on Tuesday night in the middle game of the series.

To make room for Stammen, the Nationals placed veteran right-handed reliever Tyler Walker on the disabled list because of shoulder inflammation after Monday night's 5-0 loss to the Braves.

Stammen was 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in three starts for Syracuse after being optioned to the Chiefs in early June. In 12 starts before being sent down, the right-hander was 1-2 with a 5.43 ERA. He allowed 80 hits, including eight homers, in 66 1/3 innings and had 31 strikeouts to 16 walks.

The Nationals needed a starter after sending John Lannan to Double-A Harrisburg on June 21. The left-hander was 2-5 with a 5.76 ERA in 14 starts.

The Nationals had been carrying eight relievers instead of seven since Lannan was sent down.

Walker, who last pitched June 19 against the White Sox, has appeared in 24 games, going 1-0 with a 3.57 ERA. He has 30 strikeouts to eight walks in 35 1/3 innings.

Stammen was 4-7 with a 5.11 ERA in 19 starts as a rookie last season with the Nationals.

-- Guy Curtright

Nats' All-Star Among Us announced

ATLANTA -- Mark Bergel of Bethesda, Md., was selected by a national vote as the Washington winner in the "All-Star Among Us" campaign, the Nationals, Major League Baseball and People Magazine announced Monday.

He was chosen for his community service work through A Wider Circle, a non-profit organization that provides impoverished District of Columbia residents with basic life necessities.

Bergel will be honored during pregame ceremonies at the All-Star Game in Anaheim on July 13. He will also be recognized at the Nationals' game with San Diego on July 6.

-- Guy Curtright