WASHINGTON — With one pitch in the seventh inning Thursday, Gavin Floyd’s night went from dominant to devastating when the Atlanta Braves pitcher left a 3-0 win against the Washington Nationals with a fractured right elbow.
Floyd was tossing a two-hit shutout when he threw a curveball to Jayson Werth to start the seventh inning and began shaking his right arm. Television cameras showed a knot form immediately on his pitching elbow, not far from the scar from the Tommy John ligament-reconstruction surgery that Floyd had in May 2012.
After an X-ray was taken at the ballpark, a Nationals team doctor diagnosed the fracture of the olecranon, the curved bony end of the ulna, or what might commonly be referred to as the tip of the elbow. Floyd, 31, will fly to Atlanta to be examined by Braves doctors on Friday and have other scans performed.
Floyd was told that the fracture is unrelated to the Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament. He also had a torn flexor tendon repaired at the same time as the “TJ” surgery.
Three Braves relievers worked an inning apiece to complete the three-hit shutout to open a four-game series and give the Braves their 23rd win in the past 30 games against the Nationals, including six of seven this season.
Braves head trainer Jeff Porter came onto the field and walked off with Floyd (2-2), who won his second consecutive decision in his ninth start, allowing two hits and one walk with six strikeouts in six innings. He signed as a free agent last winter and spent the first five weeks of the season on the disabled list completing his year-long surgery rehab.
Floyd lowered his ERA to 2.65 with his first scoreless outing of the season. He had allowed one earned run in half of his previous eight starts.
The injury cast a cloud over what had been a splendid night for Floyd and the Braves, who improved to 23-7 in their past 30 games against the Nationals including 6-1 this season. Atlanta pulled to within a half-game of first-place Washington atop the National League East standings.
The Braves have Alex Wood at Triple-A getting stretched out again for a return to a starting role, and the young left-hander could be ready to replace Floyd right away. He began the year in the rotation, but Wood pitched out of the bullpen for a month before the Braves sent him down to build up his arm strength and stamina again to start.
Wood made his second Triple-A start Wednesday and pitched five strong innings.
Floyd won a pitcher’s duel against Nationals ace Jordan Zimmermann (5-4), who allowed just one runner to reach base until the Braves got three consecutive one-out singles in the fourth inning. Chris Johnson probably wasn’t the guy that fans across Braves Country wanted to see coming to bat with the bases loaded, since he led the NL with 13 double plays grounded into before stepping to the plate in a scoreless game with the bags full.
As if on cue, Johnson hit a bases-loaded grounder up the middle toward second base … and it got through.
Just beyond the reach of the second baseman and shortstop and into center field, the single drove in two runs, and the Braves took big step toward a much-needed win to start their 11-game trip, after being swept in a three-game home series against the Phillies this week and falling out of first place.
Johnson added an RBI single in the eighth inning to push the lead to 3-0.
Relievers Anthony Varvaro, Jordan Walden and Craig Kimbrel pitched an inning apiece for the Braves, with Kimbrel recording his 21st save. Varvaro replaced Floyd and gave up a leadoff double to Werth in the seventh, then induced three consecutive groundouts to get out of the inning.
The Braves loaded the bases in the fourth on singles by Freddie Freeman, Evan Gattis and Jason Heyward, with Gattis extending his hitting streak to 18 games. That’s tied for the second-longest in the majors this season and three games longer than the former franchise record for catchers going back to 1900.
Zimmermann had posted a 0.36 ERA in three June starts before Thursday, and the Nationals had won seven of their past eight home games while outscoring opponents 55-22.
The Braves had been 8-14 with a 4.76 ERA in their past 22 games, while the Nationals had reeled off a 12-6 run with a 2.48 ERA to take over first place in the division.
But when the two teams met for the first time since mid-April, they reverted to recent form in which the Braves have consistently outplayed and outpitched the Nationals, regardless of whether the games were in Atlanta or Washington.