Jul 4, 2015, 2:46 PM EDT
Buster Posey had just grounded out to second base, and Stephen Strasburg felt tightness in his left side. Matt Williams, pitching coach Steve McCatty and trainer Lee Kuntz quickly came to the mound.
They talked for a few moments. Strasburg lobbied to stay in the game, but with two outs in the fourth inning, Williams knew he had to take the 26-year-old out.
The last time Strasburg abruptly left a game, on May 29, he missed 24 days with tightness in his neck.
Tanner Roark came in and pitched well, and the Nationals had 13 hits in their 9-3 win over the San Francisco Giants before a sellout crowd of 40,029 at Nationals Park.
“It’s pretty tight. They said it was going to be the case. I iced it a couple of times. I don’t really have an explanation. Everything felt good. That pitch to Posey there, he grounded out, and then I felt it grab,” Strasburg said.
He wanted to stay in until after the fourth inning, but later he admitted Williams was right.
“Everything happens for a reason. I’m going to look at it that way and try and stay positive, get back out there and help this team as soon as I can,” Strasburg said.
“Everything felt good. I was commanding the fastball really well today, especially the last couple of outings, making good strides, but sometimes you don’t have an explanation for what happens.”
Strasburg would have been scheduled for one more start before the All-Star break, and Williams didn’t elaborate on his plans.
“He left the game with some tightness in his left side, so we’ll continue to evaluate that, see how it is tomorrow, see how he feels tomorrow. Given his season so far, we’re not going to take a chance there, see how he is tomorrow,” Williams said.
After Strasburg left and before Tanner Roark came in, Williams, catcher Wilson Ramos and shortstop Ian Desmond agreed that the outing, in which Strasburg allowed one hit in 3 2/3 innings was the best he had seen him. Williams knew he couldn’t leave him in, not for even one batter.
“Of course, [he was] competitive, but we’re not going to take that chance with him, not in that situation.”
Roark (4-3) allowed two runs on five hits in 4 1/3 innings in relief of Strasburg. He retired the first eight batters he faced.
“It’s definitely a heartbreaker. He’s one that works really, really hard. He prides himself on being a starting pitcher and working hard at it. It’s just one of those things. It’s a freak accident, and hopefully, he gets himself healthy and back out here,” Roark said.
Tyler Moore had three hits and four RBIs and Bryce Harper had three hits and his 25th home run.
“Definitely not fun to see Stras come out of the game throwing 97-98 mph and carving,” Harper said.
The Nationals (45-36) scored six runs off World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner in five-plus innings. It didn’t look good for Bumgarner (8-5) when the first four Nationals reached base.
Michael A. Taylor hit Bumgarner’s first pitch for a home run, his sixth, and his second leadoff homer of the season. Yunel Escobar doubled, and Harper hit his 25th home run of the year for a 3-0 lead.
“Bumgarner is so good. You don’t want to get behind that guy a lot,” Harper said.
After Ramos singled, Bumgarner retired the next nine batters until Clint Robinson singled leading off the fourth. Danny Espinosa hit into a fielder’s choice, and scored on a two-out double by Moore.
“We came out swinging the bats aggressively. Bumgarner is no fun to face,” Moore said.
Moore added a two-run double in the sixth, two batters after Bumgarner yielded to Yusmeiro Petit.
The Nationals added three runs in the seventh on a bases-loaded walk to Espinosa that immediately followed Robinson’s first major league intentional walk, a sacrifice fly by Desmond and an RBI single by Moore.
The Giants (42-40) have lost five straight, and Harper doesn’t believe the two wins against the team that eliminated them from last year’s postseason are anything special.
“We’re in the regular season now. It’s all behind us. They’re a great team. They played well in the playoffs. They won three world titles,” Harper said.
NOTES: The Nationals have walked two or fewer batters in their last 17 games, one shy of the best in recorded history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. … Blanco and Posey extended their hitting streaks to 11 and 10 games respectively. … Jordan Zimmermann (6-5, 3.16) will pitch against Ryan Vogelsong (6-6, 4.19) on Sunday at 8:05 p.m. The game will be telecast by ESPN. … Rain delayed the start of the game by 19 minutes
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