Olsen victorious in return to Nationals
Desmond, Dunn homer in support of lefty coming off DL
WASHINGTON -- Scott Olsen gave Washington six strong innings Thursday afternoon. He gave up three runs on five hits, stayed out of trouble and gave the team's bullpen a little rest. In other words, Olsen didn't look like someone who hadn't started a game since May 21.
Olsen's start gave Washington a boost, and the Nationals used homers from Ian Desmond and Adam Dunn plus Wil Nieves' tie-breaking two-run single to pull out a 5-3 victory over the Braves before 30,263 at Nationals Park in the finale of a three-game series.
This was Olsen's first start since he went three innings in a 5-3 loss to Baltimore on May 21. He left because of left shoulder tightness and has been out ever since. Olsen was very happy that his hard work in rehab paid off.
"The last two, two and a half months haven't really been a whole lot of fun," Olsen said. "It makes days like today even more fun than they are."
Olsen (3-2) had shoulder surgery last year and said this year's troubles were likely lingering effects from that, like scar tissue. Off-days became unbearable.
Finally, the Nationals decided to shut him down and do treatment and rehab. The decision now seems to be a good one.
"I feel fine now, [but] there was extra soreness and stiffness in there that just wouldn't go away," Olsen said. "It would literally take every one of the days between starts until I felt better again. You can't live your life like that. I had to stop."
Olsen came out after a 92-minute rain delay in the middle of the sixth inning. Washington manager Jim Riggleman said the left-hander would have been pulled even without the rain.
Olsen threw 81 pitches -- 52 of which were strikes -- and really didn't have much trouble. He gave up a two-run homer to Matt Diaz in the fourth, but not much else.
"I thought he looked good," Riggleman said. "I thought it was just a real good outing, a very good outing. He's really pitching with confidence."
The Nationals finished off the victory with three shutout innings from their bullpen. Washington's bullpen threw 11 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings during the three games against Atlanta (58-43), a big reason the Nationals won twice.
In this game, Sean Burnett threw a scoreless seventh. Drew Storen blanked the Braves in the eighth, setting up closer Matt Capps, who collected his 26th save with a perfect ninth.
"I think we're happy, and we're really taking pride in our job," Storen said about the bullpen. "We're kind of on a roll, and just kind of hanging with it. We're a ... family down there, a little outcast family down there in the bullpen."
The Nationals never trailed, taking a 2-0 lead in the second when Michael Morse got an RBI groundout to score Adam Dunn. He led off the inning with a double off Atlanta starter Derek Lowe (10-9) and moved to third on a Josh Willingham groundout.
Following Morse, Desmond then blasted a solo homer to right-center. The Braves tied it on the Diaz homer in the fourth before Washington bounced back in the bottom half.
Lowe hit Morse with one out, and Desmond doubled him to third. The Braves elected to pitch to Nieves -- who came into the game with a .183 average -- rather than intentionally walk him and pitch to Olsen, and the catcher made them pay for that decision with a two-run single for a 4-2 lead.
The Braves made it 4-3 with an unearned run in the sixth, but Washington got a key insurance run in the eighth when Dunn lined a first-pitch solo homer to left off Takashi Saito.
Riggleman said Olsen still has enough time left in this season to put up some good numbers and help a Washington rotation that's been hurt by injuries in recent days. The Nationals placed rookie phenom Stephen Strasburg on the 15-day disabled list earlier in the day, and Olsen's effort came at the right time.
"He looked good today for not being up here for a while," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "[He] threw a ton of strikes and located his fastball. That's the key to pitching -- locating your fastball, and he did that all day."
Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.