- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 9, 2015

The ballyhooed matchup between Stephen Strasburg and Matt Harvey didn’t quite live up to the hype.

Harvey was predictably dominant in his first big-league start since Tommy John surgery, but Strasburg gave up six runs in 5 1/3 innings and the Washington Nationals lineup didn’t give him much help. The result was a 6-3 loss, and a 1-2 record entering its first road trip of the season.

THE RUNDOWN: This game, much like the season-opener, turned on an Ian Desmond error, his third in three games. Desmond bobbled a grounder with one out in the third that could have started an inning-ending double play. Instead, Strasburg hit the next batter with a pitch and gave up consecutive singles. A total of four runs scored in the inning, three of which were unearned. It’s hard to lay all the blame at Desmond’s feet because Strasburg could have responded better than he did. But then again, he might not have been in that position at all if Desmond had been able to complete the play.

THE HIGHLIGHT: Slim pickens here today, so let’s go with Washington’s only real offensive highlight of the afternoon: a Michael Taylor double in the seventh. The 24-year-old worked an eight-pitch at-bat against Mets reliever Buddy Carlyle with two outs, then crushed the ninth pitch off the center-field wall, bringing two runs in to score. Taylor and Bryce Harper are now tied for the lead with four hits apiece through three games.

STAR OF THE GAME: He doesn’t play for the Nationals, but it’s hard to pick anyone besides Harvey. What a performance. In his first major-league start since August 24, 2013, the right-hander gave up just four hits in six innings and recorded nine strikeouts. Harper, who had been Washington’s hottest hitter, was on the wrong end of three of them. All three ended with a waist-high fastball at 96 or 97 mph.

SEE ALSO: In high-leverage situation, Blake Treinen continues to impress

THE TAKEAWAY: The Nationals can’t wait to get Jayson Werth back in this lineup. In the first two games of the season, the bottom half of the order was a nonfactor. Then on Thursday, Washington’s 3-4-5 hitters went a combined 0-for-12. Yes, New York’s starting pitchers made things difficult throughout the series. Harvey and Jacob deGrom are nasty, and Bartolo Colon is no slouch, either. But the Nationals need to pick it up at the plate, and adding Werth back to the middle of the order will work wonders in that department.




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