Strasburg's two RBIs enough to give him win
Stephen Strasburg returned to his preferred form, and the Nationals cleaned up what started out as a mess of a homestand before leaving town for what will match their longest road trip of the year.
Washington's 4-1 victory over Miami on Sunday wasn't quite the wild spectacle that their stirring come-from-behind win had been the night before. It was just as effective, moving the Nationals (65-43) to 22 games over .500 and ensuring they would keep a three-game lead over Atlanta (62-46) in the NL East.
Instead, Strasburg put on a show on the mound and at the plate for the 30,453 at Nationals Park. He kept the Marlins scoreless, allowing three hits while striking out six and walking just one in six innings to improve to 12-5 on the year. He also drove in the first two of the Nationals' four runs in the second inning, boosting his batting average to .343. It was the only scoring the Nationals needed for their fourth victory in five games. That run followed a pair of losses to the Phillies to begin the homestand, including an 8-0 shellacking by Philadelphia five days ago in which Strasburg allowed six earned runs.
|Nationals (65-43) at Astros (36-73)|
|Edwin Jackson (6-7, 3.57 ERA) vs. Dallas Keuchel (1-4, 5.77 ERA)|
|When »||Monday, 8:05 p.m.|
|Where »||Minute Maid Park, Houston|
|Radio »||106.7 the Fan,||WFED 1500, WHFS 1580|
|It will be a while before local fans see the Nationals again. The club is off on a 10-game road trip followed by a much-needed day off before they face the Mets at home on Aug. 17. In between is a varied trip that starts in Houston against the worst team in the major leagues this season. Washington took three of four from the Astros in April. But then the Nats face tough series against Arizona and San Francisco. The Diamondbacks remain in contention for a wild-card berth, while the Giants continue to trade the NL West lead with the Los Angeles Dodgers. - Brian McNally|
"The four days in between felt like a long time," Strasburg said. "I was just trying not to overanalyze everything and just move forward. I didn't really change anything. I just wanted to go out there and be a little bit more on top of my game."
After a single by Jayson Werth, Danny Espinosa was plunked by Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco (8-11) to set up Strasburg's at-bat in the second. Werth and Espinosa both tagged up on Jesus Flores' flyout to center, and Werth applauded as Espinosa dived to beat the throw at second. The aggressive play made it easy for both to score on Strasburg's calm single into the right-field gap, earning the ace his sixth and seventh RBIs on the year.
"Somebody said when we shut him down, can we keep his bat?" Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "Can we use him as a pinch hitter? Highly unlikely."
Strasburg and Steve Lombardozzi then scored on Adam LaRoche's single, doubling the lead.
With the warm afternoon and a whiff of Strasburg's innings limit, Johnson brought in Craig Stammen for the seventh inning. Stammen promptly gave up consecutive doubles to Carlos Lee and Greg Dobbs to prevent Washington from securing the shutout. But he then followed Ryan Zimmerman's barehanded putout of Donovan Solano by striking out John Buck to limit the damage. Sean Burnett didn't give up anything in the eighth, setting up Drew Storen to earn his first save of the season following his return from elbow surgery.
"He was a little amped up, to say the least," Johnson said. "It was good see him back out there, get that out of the way. It kind of completes the rehab."
Storen clapped his hand to his glove in celebration as Justin Ruggiano grounded out to second to end the contest.
"It was a lot of fun, especially pitching for a first-place team in that situation," Storen said. "It don't get much better than that."