Strasburg's arm, bat help power Nats' victory
By Tom Green / MLB.com | 7/15/2012 6:00 PM ET
WSH@MIA: Strasburg fans seven over six shutout frames
MIAMI -- Stephen Strasburg was an All-Star in the first half of the season. During his first start of the second half, he was an escape artist.
Strasburg escaped jam after jam on Sunday against the Marlins, causing Miami to strand eight men against him as the Nationals took the third of four games at Marlins Park, 4-0.
The right-hander pitched six scoreless innings and struck out seven to end a personal three-game skid, but still wasn't at his most dominant. He scattered six hits and walked one -- and threw two wild pitches -- but managed to throw up zeros on the board inning after inning, as the Marlins went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position against him.
"I thought he used his fastball better, his location was better," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "That's the kind of Strasburg that I've grown to love. ... Even though he had two or three rough jams, he pitched out of them by basically making pitches with his fastball."
The Marlins had men on second and third with two down in the second inning after a wild pitch by Strasburg. But the righty got out of the frame by striking out John Buck on a pitch in the dirt.
The Nationals escaped a jam in the third, thanks to a baserunning mix-up by the Marlins on their lone hit with runners in scoring position.
With men on first and second, Carlos Lee singled to center field. Ricky Nolasco rounded third and was halfway to home plate before Miami third-base coach Joe Espada emphatically sent him back to the third. Center fielder Roger Bernadina's throw home sailed to the backstop, which would have allowed Nolasco to score easily. Instead, Jose Reyes had to retreat to second and Lee had to rush back to first to give the Marlins a bases-loaded situation with one out.
"When you're rounding that bag, you're picking up the third-base coach," Nolasco said. "As I was rounding, I saw him waving. I think a good throw gets me. He held me up at the last minute, and it was a bad throw. Roger Bernadina is a pretty good outfielder, with a good arm.
"If he does throw a strike to home plate, I'm sure they're going to get me out. There is nothing you can do there. You can't second-guess Joe in that situation. I'm a pitcher, and I don't have the best speed."
Strasburg capitalized on Miami's indecisiveness on the bases by striking out Logan Morrison looking and getting Hanley Ramirez to ground out to third.
In the fourth, Strasburg worked his way around a one-out double by Emilio Bonifacio, and then navigated through a two-on, one-out situation in the fifth by again retiring Morrison and Ramirez.
"It's one of those days where you get through them," Strasburg said. "It's not going to be every day where they're hitting balls hard right to guys."
While Strasburg turned in his 14th quality start -- one that warranted Johnson to personally congratulate him in the clubhouse after the game -- the righty helped his own cause at the plate.
The Nationals were held hitless through four innings by Nolasco, with their only baserunner coming in the form of a third-inning walk to Strasburg.
Michael Morse recorded Washington's first hit before getting thrown out on a fielder's choice by Danny Espinosa. With two outs, Nolasco intentionally walked Jhonatan Solano to get to Strasburg, who drove in the game's first run with a single.
"I couldn't do it," Johnson said of intentionally walking Strasburg, who is hitting .385 this season. "I know him. I know what kind of hitter he is and how much pride he takes in his hitting."
Steve Lombardozzi extended his hit streak to eight games with an RBI single to put Washington up, 2-0.
The Nationals added two more in the sixth on RBIs by Morse and Espinosa before chasing Nolasco. The four runs were more than enough, as the Nationals recorded their fifth shutout of the season and their first since June 2 against Atlanta -- also a Strasburg start.
Tyler Clippard closed out the game, but not before performing his own escape act. The righty loaded the bases with no outs to put the tying run at the plate before retiring the next three hitters.
With Miami down to its final out, Omar Infante popped out near the right-field line, where Bryce Harper made a diving grab while colliding with Lombardozzi to seal the game.
"'You better catch this ball, you're going to get hammered, but catch the ball.' That was the only thing I was thinking about," Harper said. "[Lombardozzi] got me in the face and my hip, but I caught the ball. Game over."