Nationals Park was a sea of red Friday night, with several Nationals fans opting to wear gear of the newly-crowned Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals.
But those crosstown vibes didn’t translate from the ice to the diamond, as All-Star pitcher Stephen Strasburg left the game after just two innings in a 9-5 loss to the San Francisco Giants before a sellout crowd of 41,591 fans.
The Nationals (35-26) entered Friday tied for first in the National League East with Atlanta, who played on the west coast in Los Angeles.
Pitching eight years to the day of his major league debut, Strasburg (6-6) was taken out after throwing just 35 pitches. The San Diego native, who has admitted he doesn’t like humidity, appeared uncomfortable after several pitchers in his shortest start since July 23, 2017 with a game-time temperature of 84 degrees.
After he left, the Nationals offense woke up.
Matt Adams had a pinch-hit RBI single in the sixth for the Nationals to cut the lead to 6-5.
But the Giants (32-31) scored three runs in seventh against reliever Brandon Kintzler to forge a 9-5 advantage.
That stymied the momentum of the Nationals, who scored in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.
The Nationals, who trailed 5-0 and 6-2, battled back and pulled to within 6-4 on a two-run single by Bryce Harper in the fifth. Harper entered the contest hitting just .193 in his last 30 games.
He struck out to end the game and was 1-for-5.
Washington rookie left fielder Juan Soto hit a two-run homer to left in the fourth to trim the lead to 5-2. It was the third homer of the season for Soto and his third against a left-handed pitcher in 22 at-bats.
Shawn Kelley replaced Strasburg in the top of the third. A slew of relievers followed as the Nationals gave up 15 hits.
The last thing the Nationals need is more injury news.
Nationals outfielder Adam Eaton, on the disabled list since April 11 with a left ankle bone bruise, was at the park Friday after playing in several minor league rehab games with Single-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg. Washington manager Dave Martinez feels Eaton is close to coming off the disabled list, perhaps this weekend.
Second baseman Daniel Murphy, who has yet to play this season for the Nationals following October knee surgery, started at second base for Double-A Harrisburg at Richmond on Friday in another rehab outing.
He was 1-for-2 with two walks in his first four trips to the plate against Richmond, a Giants farm team.
The Nationals had won 11 of their previous 15 games and were 24-9 since late April, the best mark in the majors. Washington starting pitchers had allowed three earned runs or less in 33 of the previous 35 games.
Department of Homeland Security Night
It was Big 10 Night and Department of Homeland Security Night at Nationals Park.
The ceremonial first pitch was thrown by Kevin McAleenan, commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The national anthem was performed by Michelle Miles, also from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Fleming Anderson, of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, yelled “Play Ball”.
Stanley Cup coming to Nationals Park
The series continues Saturday at 12:05 p.m. as Washington lefty Gio Gonzalez (6-2, 2.27) faces Giants right-hander Dereck Rodriguez, the son of former Nationals catcher and Hall of Famer Pudge Rodriguez.
The Stanley Cup and members of the Stanley Cup champion Capitals are slated to be at the game. Ace Max Scherzer (10-1) will pitch Sunday at 4:05 p.m. against the Giants in the series finale. He grounded out as a pinch-hitter Friday.
Giants manager has local ties
Giants skipper Bruce Bochy is no stranger to the region.
He spent part of his youth in Falls Church as part of a military family. He was born in France while his father was stationed there. Bochy moved to Florida in the early 1970s with his family and made it to the majors as a catcher. Bochy is a likely Hall of Famer, as he led the Giants to three World Series titles earlier this decade.