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Strasburg dominant, Nats produce late to top Cards
WASHINGTON (AP) - Stephen Strasburg returned to dominant, strike-throwing form against St. Louis after struggling in his last start. According to his manager, the All-Star ace will have two more opportunities at being “vintage Strasburg” this season.
The NL East-leading Nationals took three of four from St. Louis and passed their 80-win total from last season.
Strasburg, rocked for seven runs last Tuesday at Miami, left with a 2-0 lead and a 2.94 ERA. He threw 97 pitches and wound up with a no-decision.
The 23-year-old Strasburg has struck out a league-leading 195 in 156 1-3 innings this season. The Nationals have repeatedly stated they intend on shutting him down in his first full season since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2010.
Johnson stuck with the party line after the win while providing a firmer timeline than the club has to date.
“I think two starts, unless I let him pitch 10 (innings) in the next one out, which I’m not going to do,” Johnson said. “I think his last start will be on the 12th.”
“I’m just focused on the next start,” Strasburg said. “We’re going to have a sit down and talk here soon.”
“When we feel that he’s had enough in and around that area of innings, and we take into account all the things we’ve talked about taking into account, stressful innings, pitches, and that type of thing, then we’ll make that decision and shut him down,” said Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, acknowledging he has yet to have that sit down with Strasburg.
“I don’t think he’s going to fight me on it, I think he’s going to be unhappy about it, I know he’ll be unhappy about it. He is an ultimate competitor, but we’ve taken that out of his hands,” he said. “We’ve made (a decision) five months ago and we’re going to stick to it.”
For his part Strasburg added, “I’m in with these guys. We still have a long way to go. I’m going to fight with them to the end.”
Washington responded with four consecutive two-out singles against Lance Lynn (13-6). Desmond’s flare to center scored pinch-runner Eury Perez with the go-ahead run. Espinosa had three of the Nationals‘ 13 hits.
Ryan Mattheus (2-3) pitched 1 1-3 innings, allowing a run on Tony Cruz’s RBI double in the eighth. Tyler Clippard, the worked the ninth for his 29th save.
Lynn pitched one inning, allowing two runs on four hits for the Cardinals, who have lost five of six while trying to hold off Pittsburgh for the final NL wild-card berth.
“I just settled in a little bit,” Strasburg said. “That’s just getting out there, feeling your way through the first couple of innings. When you’ve got your pitches working, it’s just attack.”
“Strasburg did a great job of holding us down,” said Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay, twice a strikeout victim in three at-bats against Strasburg. “He had a good fastball and changeup. He kept us off-balance.”
Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman’s throwing error, a walk and a wild pitch put runners on the corners with one out in the fourth. Holliday attempted to score the game’s first run on Bryan Anderson’s shallow fly ball to right, but Bryce Harper easily threw him out at the plate for the final out.
Usually in center, Harper shifted to right with Jayson Werth scratched from the lineup minutes before the first pitch.
Suzuki, acquired in a trade with Oakland last month, stroked his third homer on the season in the bottom half. In the sixth, he tacked on a third consecutive single against Westbrook, which scored Desmond and ended Westbrook’s day.
Westbrook allowed two runs on nine hits with six strikeouts and one walk. He avoided his third loss in four starts when Descalso, the Cardinals number eight hitter, turned on a 3-1 pitch from Burnett for his fourth home run of the season.
NOTES: Strasburg also went 1 for 2. He is hitting .277. … Johnson removed Werth due to leg cramps which forced him to leave Saturday’s game in the ninth inning. … The Nationals open a four-game series Monday with Ross Detwiler facing Jeff Samardzija and the visiting Chicago Cubs. … St. Louis returns home Monday and has Joe Kelly facing Mets starter Collin McHugh.
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