ATLANTA — Stephen Strasburg said he "kind of battled myself" through the most difficult of his five big league starts.
It was too much for the rookie that he also was battling the first-place Atlanta Braves.
The Braves scored four runs in the seventh inning against the Washington Nationals' star rookie, and Tim Hudson threw seven scoreless innings in a 5-0 victory Monday night.
Strasburg (2-2) said he abandoned his breaking ball too early in the game, leaving his fastball and changeup as his primary pitches.
"I don't think I threw as many breaking balls as I have," he said. "You have to have that up here, because they square up on your fastball."
Strasburg's fastball reached 100 mph and he struck out seven, leaving him two shy of matching Herb Score's record of 50 in his first five starts. Strasburg has two losses and a no-decision after winning his first two starts.
The 21-year-old right-hander had no help from his offense in this one as he gave up six hits and four runs, including three earned, in 6 1-3 innings. The Nationals have scored one run in Strasburg's last three starts.
His previous high for runs allowed was two in his debut, a 5-2 win over Pittsburgh on June 8.
"I understand I'm not going to have lights-out stuff every time," Strasburg said. "I'm human."
Braves manager Bobby Cox said the rookie was as impressive as expected.
"He's as advertised," Cox said. "He's dynamite. He's great. He's got maybe the best changeup for a first-year player I've ever seen."
After the game, the Braves announced they have placed their star rookie, right fielder Jason Heyward, on the 15-day disabled list with a deep bone bruise in his left thumb. Heyward's injury was diagnosed in an MRI on Monday.
Heyward's injury threatens his availability for the All-Star game. He ranks second among outfielders in the NL voting.
Heyward, the NL's rookie of the month for April and May, will be eligible to come off the DL during the July 12-14 All-Star break.
Cox also announced Kenshin Kawakami is moving to the bullpen. Kris Medlen will remain in the rotation when Jair Jurrjens returns from a hamstring injury to start against the Nationals on Wednesday.
Hudson (8-3) gave up only five hits for the NL East-leading Braves, who drew 42,889, their second-largest crowd of the season. The total included 9,601 walk-up sales Monday and 21,608 tickets sold since Strasburg's last start Wednesday, according to the Braves.
It was just another big spotlight on the rookie.
"I thought he responded well," Washington manager Jim Riggleman said. "Every challenge he's had like that, he's responded well."
Hudson understood the night was about Strasburg.
"It may seem weird to say I feel sorry for him, but it's unfortunate that a rookie can't stay under the radar forever," Hudson said. "Every team is coming at him with their 'A' game. He's the hot rookie who's supposed to beat you."
Hudson, 34, called himself "the old man" who "still has some tricks up his sleeve."
Strasburg, wearing a goatee and high socks, struck out only one of Atlanta's first 12 batters but six of the next seven, including five straight in the fifth and sixth innings.
The Nationals, who have lost five straight, couldn't take advantage of a scoring chance in the seventh against Hudson. Roger Bernadina hit a double to left and moved to third on Ian Desmond's sacrifice. Hudson struck out Alberto Gonzalez and ended the inning on Strasburg's groundout.
The Braves then broke through in the bottom of the inning.
Strasburg walked Chipper Jones on four pitches to open the seventh. Brian McCann followed with a single and Desmond bobbled a grounder by Troy Glaus for an error to load the bases. Jones scored on Eric Hinske's flyball to center. Yunel Escobar knocked
Strasburg out of the game with a sharply hit single to left, driving in McCann for a 2-0 lead.
Gregor Blanco reached on a run-scoring bunt single that Strasburg's replacement, Sean Burnett, couldn't handle. Pinch-hitter Omar Infante added another infield hit, this time off third baseman Ryan Zimmerman's glove, to drive in Escobar, and Martin Prado's fly to right drove in Blanco.
The Braves threatened early against Strasburg. Melky Cabrera doubled in the first inning and was thrown out at the plate on McCann's single by left fielder Josh Willingham.
The Braves had two baserunners again in the second. Glaus walked — the first walk allowed by Strasburg in three games — and advanced to second on Escobar's single. Blanco hit into a double play to end the inning.
NOTES: Riggleman said he could not confirm RHP Craig Stammen will be recalled from Syracuse to start in Tuesday's game against the Braves "because it affects another player on the roster." The Nationals will have to make a roster move if they promote Stammen, as expected. Stammen was 1-2 with a 5.43 ERA in 12 starts with Washington when he was optioned to Syracuse on June 6. ... Jones' single in the fourth gave him an 11-game hitting streak. ... The Braves' largest home crowd of the season was 53,081 for their April 5 opener against the Cubs.