Jun 28, 2015, 4:14 PM EDT
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: With uncertainty surrounding the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader at Citizens Bank Park, especially on the pitching front, nothing was more important to the Nationals than a strong start from Stephen Strasburg in the opener. Which is exactly what they got.
Strasburg again looked like his old self, tossing seven innings of 2-run ball, striking out nine along the way. His ability to give the Nationals one extra inning despite a rising pitch count also made a big difference on a day when relievers needed to be saved as much as possible for whatever still awaited.
A Nats lineup bolstered by the return of both Denard Span and Bryce Harper from minor ailments supported Strasburg with three runs. Span doubled in the fifth, took third on Jeff Francoeur’s comical error and scored on Danny Espinosa’s sacrifice fly. Michael Taylor then drove in the go-ahead run with an RBI double in the sixth, with the Nats tacking on another via a passed ball.
The back end of the bullpen then sealed the deal, with Matt Thornton and David Carpenter combining to record three outs in the eighth and Drew Storen recording his 23rd save in 25 tries with a scoreless ninth. So it was that the Nationals won their eighth straight game, a streak that will be on the line only minutes from now when Game 2 of the traditional doubleheader gets underway.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: The more he plays, the better Taylor’s at-bats get. He went 2-for-4 today, singling in the third and then roping an RBI double down the left-field line in the sixth for the go-ahead run. The rookie outfielder has done well hitting in the 8-spot, not always the easiest role for a young hitter. The biggest difference: Taylor has cut down on his strikeouts, eliminating a lot of bad at-bats and giving himself more opportunities to make solid contact. The results have been positive; Taylor is now hitting .254 with 27 RBI, which actually ranks fourth on the team.
PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: This is the Stephen Strasburg we all knew. We just hadn’t seen him in awhile. Healthy and confident on the mound, Strasburg went right after the Phillies lineup. He relied again on his fastball for the most part, but mixed in more curveballs and changeups today. The changeup was especially sharp, possibly sharper than it’s been any other time this season. Perhaps the most significant thing Strasburg did, though, was re-take the mound for the seventh inning on 96 pitches. He might normally have been pulled prior to that, but with another game still to play today, Matt Williams needed to push his starter a bit. Strasburg responded by retiring the side, striking out the last two batters he faced and wrapping up an impressive, 113-pitch outing. In two starts now since coming off the DL, he has thrown 12 innings, allowing two runs on eight hits and two walks, striking out 15. His ERA has dropped from 6.55 to 5.49.
KEY STAT: Dan Uggla now has a pair of 3-hit games this season (today, plus the April 28 comeback victory in Atlanta). He hadn’t had any previous to that since 2012.
UP NEXT: Don’t go anywhere, because Game 2 starts in only 30 minutes. Tanner Roark will start against Phillies right-hander Severino Gonzalez.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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