KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Stephen Strasburg likes to time his journey from the bullpen to the dugout to minimize the time he has to sit on the bench before getting in the game.
He had to wait what seemed like an eternity on Wednesday.
The Washington Nationals scored six times off Kris Medlen in the first inning, taking advantage of three errors and a slew of hits, as they proceeded to rout the Kansas City Royals, 13-2, and take the rubber-game of their three-game interleague set.
“It might sound strange but it made it a little more difficult,” said Strasburg, who allowed two runs and five hits over six tidy innings. “You have to trick your mind into thinking it’s a 0-0 game.”
Strasburg managed to do it, pushing his career-best start to 5-0.
Daniel Murphy finished a triple shy of the cycle and slumping slugger Bryce Harper also went deep as the Nationals (19-8) pounded out 16 hits. Murphy and Clint Robinson each drove in three runs and nearly everyone else in a gray jersey did something at the plate to help pace the rout.
Medlen (1-3) allowed nine runs, six of them earned, and six hits in two-plus innings for Kansas City (14-13). His ERA rose to 20.65 in two starts at Kauffman Stadium this season and he lost his third consecutive start for the first time since July 2013, when he was pitching for the Atlanta Braves.
“It just wasn’t Medlen’s day,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He just couldn’t get it going and the defense didn’t help him. Three errors in the first inning didn’t help him. It was just a struggle.”
Things got so bad for the Royals that Eric Hosmer, their hottest hitter, was ejected for the first time in his six-year career. He struck out and took umbrage with plate umpire C.B. Bucknor, who gestured for him to head to the showers in the bottom of the sixth inning.
By that point, Hosmer was probably happy to oblige.
The Royals used every player on their bench, including catcher Salvador Perez, who had to take over for Hosmer at first base. They also used six pitchers with closer Wade Davis working the ninth.
The tone was set with the first two batters of the game. Mike Moustakas allowed a hopper to get past him for a leadoff error, and Omar Infante bobbled an easy grounder for another one. The Nationals proceeded to string together four consecutive hits, three of them extra-bases, before Medlen finally record his first out on his 39th pitch.
“They helped us out in that first inning and that doesn’t happen very often,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. “They’re a very good defensive time.”
Washington, which finished 8-for-15 with runners in scoring position, added a sacrifice fly to take a 6-0 lead before Strasburg finally got to pitch.
He gave up a couple of runs in the second, but the Nationals proceeded to score four more runs on five hits and a walk in the third inning. Medlen was lifted with the bases loaded and no outs, but reliever Danny Duffy did little to slow the Nationals’ offensive onslaught.
Murphy, who matched a career high with his four hits, went deep in the fourth inning. Harper hit his 10th home run of the season in the fifth.
The only reason to pay much attention over the rest of the game was Murphy, who had three legs of the cycle by the fourth inning. He added a single leading off the sixth to push his average to .402, but was part of the wholesale substitutions by both teams that kept him from getting another chance.
“Playing against him, you knew you were getting a professional at-bat every time,” Strasburg said. “His baseball IQ is just off the charts.”
Nationals right-hander Joe Ross is on the mound to open a four-game series against the Chicago Cubs on Thursday night at Wrigley Field.
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